“Hey, GC,” Becky Fairbanks sat down next to me while I was watching football on TV. I barely grunted and slid over to give her some room.
“GC, did you do your math homework?”
I nodded even though I had forgotten that we’d been given 30 problems to do in Algebra. Becky came over to hang out with Barbara. I didn’t know why she wasn’t doing math with her.
“Maybe you could help me with some of the problems,” she asked.
“I’m flunking math, Becky. I don’t think you’d want my help.”
“Oh. Right.” Finally Becky gets up and left me alone. Once she was gone, I turn the TV off and head up to the room I share with TJ to work on my math problems.
I still hated school. The only thing I liked about school is sports. I had to get my grades up because it was almost wrestling season, and I couldn’t wrestle if I have an F on my report card: Mom’s rules. But when I’m trying to concentrate on what order I should do my equations, I can’t stop thinking about Becky.
I don’t get her. She torments me all through grade school and now she decides that she likes me? What’s up with that?
I would be lying if I said that Becky wasn’t good looking, but she’s not good looking enough to make me forget how much grief she caused me. I mean, I was going to an f’n shrink—her f’n dad—and all she could do was call me names and tease me. She got everyone else to do it, too, even my sisters.
She never seemed to notice how much it bothered me, and she never listened when I asked her to stop. Doesn’t she remember how I’d run away from her and her friends in tears? TEARS! Seriously, I was crying in school because of her, which of course made it even worse.
No. I look at Becky and I think enemy, not girl who’s interested in me.
Once again I’m trying to figure out how the hell to answer one of the infernal story questions that my math teacher thinks should be easy. I hear TJ pounding up the stairs. He’s likely already done with his homework.
“Hey, GC, want to go for a run?” TJ and I usually run together after school. The wrestling coach encouraged us to build our endurance. Wrestling isn’t just a physical sport. Sometimes being able to outlast the other guy is just as important. And nothing beats speed.
“Got math homework.”
“I can wait,” TJ said. He started tossing a soft ball we usually keep on the dresser against the wall.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Ka-thump.
“Fuck, Teej. I can’t concentrate!”
“Sorry.” TJ palmed the ball and set it back in its spot.
I shake my head. “No. Don’t worry about it. I hate this f’n shit. I just don’t get it.”
“Let me help. I remember algebra pretty good.”
Thankfully, TJ and my sisters had no problem helping me with my homework. Laura helped with science and Barbara made sure I did well in Composition and Reading (she’s on the newspaper staff). Dad helped as well. He didn’t want me to get kicked off the wrestling team. He thought it was pretty awesome that I was good at sports. He sometimes joined TJ and I on our runs or he would work out with us in the gym.
“I would have lettered in baseball at Westlake if I hadn’t transferred to the prep school,” Dad told me when I got my first letter for wrestling. “You should try out for the team, GC. TJ prefers to run track, but maybe you’d like running bases instead.”
What could I say to that? Of course I tried out. And it turned out that I was pretty good at baseball. Track would have been fine, but tons of other guys are on the track team, too. I might not have had much of a chance to compete. In baseball, there weren’t as many people. I played short-stop.
You know, I wish I had some of Barbara’s luck. I swear, that girl can get away with anything. I work my ass off to get Ds and the occasional C in my classes (except PE and shop) and Barbara makes straight Bs. She skips school all the time to hang out with some of the guys in my auto repair class, but it still doesn’t affect her grades. And she never gets caught! She forges notes for pretty much everything so the school doesn’t call home, and Mom and Dad don’t notice because her grades are pretty good. It sucks.
Barbara is always pulling pranks with Becky, too. The two of them released all of the frogs in the bio lab the other day. Mrs. Murdoch was furious, but she couldn’t figure out who’d done it.
“One of these days you two are going to get caught,” I said to Barbara after school. I really wanted to say something to someone at the school, but couldn’t because I didn’t want to become known as a snitch.
“We’re too careful to be caught,” Barbara said. Becky nodded agreement.
“Did you see the janitor trying to coral those frogs?! Priceless!” Becky snickered. “And my dumb brother. He’s such a goody, goody.”
“I don’t think it was that funny,” Laura chimed in. “Alex was just trying to save the frogs. He knew that Mrs. Murdoch needed them for our class.”
“You’re such a nerd, Laura.” Barbara rolled her eyes. I could tell this hurt Laura’s feelings, but she didn’t say anything else. She just went into the dining room to start her homework.
I didn’t know Becky’s brother that well. He was in TJ’s grade, but he was in the advanced classes. Alex Fairbanks was nothing like his sister. He was really popular not because he was super good looking or anything, but because he was just so nice to everyone. He’s one of those people who gets along with any group at school and doesn’t seem to really have a clique. It didn’t surprise me that he had been helping collect all of the frogs.
“He should release all the frogs in your beds so you can see what it’s like to be pranked,” I said.
“You’re such a loser, GC,” Barbara sneered at me. I glared back at her, but I knew it would do no good to keep arguing with her.
“I’ve got to get my homework done before practice,” I said, leaving the two girls to giggle over their prank some more.
The frog incident wasn’t the only time that the two girls pulled pranks at school. Barbara started dating one of the guys in my shop class who liked to make stink bombs and other things in his spare time. She and this loser, Eddie Mole, and Becky (who tagged along like a third wheel if you ask me), placed stink bombs in several rooms in our building. They were on some sort of timing mechanism so they’d all go off at once.
Barbara, Becky and Eddie were nowhere near the bombs, which is why they got away with it. No one knew who’d set them, but I’d overheard Laura arguing with Barbara about it the next day.
“I didn’t teach you that formula so that you could stink out the school!” Laura chastised. “I missed my chemistry test because of you! Now we’re behind.”
“Like that’s a big deal,” Barbara scoffed. “Most people were happy school got canceled.”
“And we were supposed to be building bridges in woodshop today. I wanted to do that. I had plans to recreate the London Bridge.”
The stink bomb prank is something that really put a strain on my sisters’ relationship with each other. Laura really cared about school. She liked going and learning. While I was one of those who appreciated getting out early, it upset Laura. Also, Laura was the one who helped Barbara learn how to mix chemicals and stuff. She didn’t like having her skills used for the wrong things.
What really got me pissed about Barbara was the party she threw while our parents were out of town for a weekend conference in Hidden Springs that dad had been invited to. We were told that TJ was in charge and that we were to stay home the whole weekend and not go to our friends or to the Red Rooster, the local hangout.
“We’re just having a few people over,” Barbara told TJ. “It’s not really a party. Mom and Dad said to stay home, but they didn’t say we couldn’t invite our friends over, too.”
But having 15 teenagers in the house was probably not something Mom or Dad would have appreciated. TJ was upset at first, but his girlfriend, Rosalyn Harrow was at the party. She kept him occupied.
Laura got upset at first, too, but the new guy in our shop class, Trevor, was at the party, too. He wasn’t the typical thug-like guy who took shop because he hated school. He was a lot more like Laura and me, liking shop because he enjoyed working with his hands, building and creating things. And like Laura, I think he just had a passion for the science of building. It was strange seeing the two of them together. This guy looked more like someone Barbara would date, not Laura. In appearances, they were completely opposites.
“Looks like Laura has the hots for Trevor Meade,” someone said from behind me. I was leaning against the archway by our living room, making sure that no one spilled or broke anything. I did not want to get caught for having a party. I knew that I’d end up taking as much blame as Barbara even if I didn’t invite everyone over here.
I turned and saw that it was Becky. I immediately wished for an excuse to be somewhere else.
“I guess,” I shrugged.
“TJ’s all cuddled up with Rosalyn, too,” she continued.
“And look at Barbara.”
I did. I wasn’t surprised to see her flirting with Eddie. “So?”
“So why aren’t youout there?” she asked, mocking me as usual.
Now I really wished I was somewhere else. Maybe I should check the pizza boxes. Maybe something needed thrown away. Why the hell was Becky talking to me? Why was she coming over to me and talking to me?
I stood away from the arch.
“Um, what do you mean?”
“Well, it seems like they’re all paired up. A lot of people seem like that tonight. It’s all couples. So why aren’t you out there?” This time her tone of voice didn’t seem mocking. She seemed genuinely interested. And there was something about the look on her face that made me nervous.
Man, was it getting hotter? Should I check the thermostat? I pulled at my shirt collar. “Why aren’t you?” I finally demanded. If Becky wanted to get on my case for being single in room of couples, I could ask her the same questions. “Why aren’t you out their latched on to some poor slob?”
Becky stepped away from me. She looked hurt by the tone of the question, and I felt bad momentarily. Maybe she was sensitive about being alone, too. Damn it! I started to feel a little sorry for her.
“Don’t you have a boyfriend, Becky?” I asked a bit nicer this time.
“No, I don’t,” she looked down at her shoes.
“Do you like someone?”
“Oh,” I said. I was feeling awkward. What are you supposed to say to girls who are rejected by the boys they like?
After an uncomfortable silence she said, “Don’t you want to know who it is?” She was looking at me again, right in the eyes. I shrugged and looked away.
“It’s you, you idiot.”
I choked on my own spit. Never inhale when a girl is dropping a bomb on you like that one. “M-me?!” I sputtered.
“Since when?” What the hell?! Becky Fairbanks liked me? She liked meliked me!?
“God, GC you’re so clueless! I’ve liked you for like ever!”
“No you didn’t! You hated me and I hated you.”
“I didn’t hate you, GC.”
“I hated you.” Ok, that wasn’t smooth. Becky’s eyes got tears in them. Shit. I’d caused Becky Fairbanks to cry.
“I didn’t mean it that way. I mean, I did, but what I meant was that I didn’t like you because you were so mean to me. I thought you hated me. I just reacted.” Gosh I suck at this.
“Well, I’m not being mean to you anymore.”
“No, I guess not.” I rubbed the back of my neck. I really should go check the pizza boxes,I thought. But I couldn’t seem to tell Becky that I had to do it.
“GC, do you like me even a little?”
“Um…” The answer was no, but I couldn’t say that to her.
“You don’t even think I’m pretty or something like that?”
“Well, what doyou think of me?”
“I don’t know.”
Becky threw up her hands in disgust. “Well think about this then,” she said and then she did something that I wish she hadn’t done. She kissed me. She just planted her lips on mine and pulled me to her by the shoulder. She pressed herself against me, too.
I just stood there. I didn’t really kiss her back or move to touch her or even breathe out while she had her mouth on mine.
I think this wasn’t the reaction she expected because she pulled away and looked really embarrassed and shocked. She turned and ran out the door and out into our yard.
“Shit,” I said, wiping my mouth. Then I followed.
“Becky! Becky!” I ran out into the yard and around to our old playground in the back.
I found her crying to herself up in the old jungle gym. I climbed up and sat down next to her.
“I’m sorry,” I said because I didn’t know what else to say. And I was sorry. I was sorry she was crying. I was sorry she’d kissed me. I was sorry she’d even started talking to me.
“N’msorry” she sort of mumbled.
“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” I said.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” she said. “You must think I’m some sort of slut.”
“No. You’re not slutty.”
“I just reallylike you GC!” She started crying again.
That made her laugh through the tears. “I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“I just never thought of you like that,” I tried to explain. “You’re my sister’s friend.”
“So…aren’t there some sort of rules about going out with your sister’s best friend?”
“No. I think that’s a guy thing.”
We were quiet. Becky wiped at her eyes and snuffed a bit. I tried not to notice. When she seemed to have everything under control again, I looked at her.
“Thanks for liking me.”
“No one’s ever liked me like that.”
“Stupid. A lot of girls like you. You’re like the hottest shit. You’re on the wrestling team and baseball. You’re totally clueless. You’re good at fixing things, and it’s cute when you’re covered in grease or woodchips from shop class. You’re like every girl’s dream.”
I was glad it was dark because I was blushing. “I didn’t know that.”
“See…clueless. It’s like a girl magnet. I’m just the first one with enough guts to try to get you to like me back.”
“That kiss was nice,” I said lamely.
“Oh GC! No it wasn’t. You didn’t even try to kiss me back.”
What was I supposed to say to that? I’d never kissed a girl before. I had only educational knowledge of how it was done, and I was pretty terrible at learning so I probably knew jack shit about it.
“Can we try it again?” I asked finally.
This time I leaned in and planted my lips on hers. I didn’t really know what to do from there. I knew there can be tongues involved, but how? Do you just stick them out at each other? Was I supposed to lick her?
Becky opened her mouth under mine, so I did the same. That’s when her tongue sort of swept inside. Ah, so that’s what you do, I thought and echoed the motion. Becky’s lips were soft, and her mouth tasted a bit like pizza. I don’t know how I felt about her tongue. Tongues are sort of odd, you know?
“GC?” Becky pulled away. “Are you even concentrating?”
“Is this your first kiss?”
Becky started to giggle. Then she started to laugh outright. Then she was rolling back and forth up in our jungle gym.
“Oh my gosh! GC! I can’t believe you said that. You’re doing it all wrong.”
“Well, how was I supposed to know?” I was offended, but I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I really was clueless.
“Alright. I’ll show you what to do.” So we spent the rest of the party up there just making out. I think I got the hang of it by the time the party ended. I knew how to move my tongue. She even told me where I should put my hands and what places girls liked to be touched. It was very educational, but not much more than that.
“Um, Becky?” I asked after we climbed down.
“This doesn’t mean we’re like going out now does it?”
She laughed at me again. “God no. I don’t think I like you like that anymore. You’re getting to be a pretty good kisser, but nothing that makes my heart leap in my chest. Sorry GC.”
I wasn’t sorry. I didn’t like her that way either, even if I had just spent an hour with my tongue in her mouth and my hands on various parts of her body.
“Thanks for the lessons, Becky.”
“Thanks for the make out session. It was fun.” She gave me a hug and then ran back to the party.
Mom and Dad found out about the party, of course. I always knew they would. Boy were they furious at all of us. Even though Barbara was the one who invited everyone over and TJ was supposed to be in charge, we all got grounded.
“I’m so disappointed in you,” Mom said in that way that mom’s do. Man, it sucks worse than anything to hear those words.
Dad was the one who chastised Barbara and TJ. They actually got an extra week of grounding since it really was their faults.
“But Dad, that’s not fair!” Barbara complained. This didn’t get her anywhere with Dad, and I was sort of glad she was finally getting in trouble, but I was sorry that TJ had to share the blame.
At least I was only grounded for a week. I’d use that time to get caught up on my homework, I supposed. Maybe I’d actually get an A on my next math test.