Sunday, August 18, 2013

POPULAR by SUMMER DAY (chapter three: discussions)

Chapter Three

    “Now play nice, children,” Dad said jokingly as I placed some snacks on the couch for us while Ethan swapped computer games. Seriously, does he really think I’m going to sit here and clap while he gets the highest score?
    “Aren’t we a little old for that Ethan?”
    “You might be, I’m not.”
     After he reached a high score he texted his friend Ariel.
     Ariel lives close by but has headed so far down the emo road she may not ever return. I’ve barely ever seen her wear an actual color. She’s not open to a makeover even though I’ve tried to help her.
     “She’s coming over,” Ethan announced.
     “Great,” I added, even though it wasn’t great.
     Ariel is a science geek who also likes computer games and I think she has a crush on Ethan although he seems blissfully unaware of it. They’ve known each other since grade school. It’s really quite nauseating to be around them since they practically finish off each other’s sentences.
      “Oh Honey, I hope we won’t miss Phoebe too much while she’s on her vacation,” my father said as he headed up to his study. “I hope she and Mark return soon. They are far more than neighbors now since your sister married Mark’s other cousin – they are family.”
    Did I mention I have a much older sister, Maya? Yes, I did. Well, she’s married and lives in New York with yet another Knightly, Mark’s older half-brother, Harris, who he didn’t grow up with and barely knows.
    “Now, don’t wake me up too early in the morning. Goodnight Honey,” Daddy said as he kissed the top of my head. “Night Ethan, say hello to Ariel. Try not to spill any of Sugarplum’s food on the couch, Honey.”
     Sugarplum is my French bulldog rescue dog. She was rescued just as some horrible mean ignorant person started trying to rip one of her toenails out just to watch her cry and yelp in pain. Thankfully she was saved because of the Bel Air  School District Rescue Squad of which I am a founding member. It’s called We Love Dogs but now we help cats as well, so we’re changing it to: We love Animals. I’m going to brainstorm my socials once we start school. We totally need to cast our net wider – there are all sorts of endangered species that need our help.
     The minute I saw Sugarplum abandoned near a garbage bin yelping in his cardboard box, paws bloodied, I just had to have him. His paws were cleaned and bandaged and eventually they healed.
     He needs extra love (which he definitely gets from me) but on special occasions I get his toenails painted bright blue (with non-toxic doggy friendly nail polish) so he only has to look up at the sky to remember how special he is. Of course, Ethan had to tell me that dogs don’t see color but I choose not to believe that.
     Sugarplum nuzzled into the crook of my arm as dad left the room.
     “‘Night Daddy, don’t worry about me,” I  said.
     “Oh, it’s not you I’m worried about Honey, it’s Ethan; I fear you might eat him alive while I’m asleep.”
    “Of course I won’t, Daddy. Ethan is used to my argumentative ways. At least I have an opinion. You taught me that.”
    “Exactly,” Ethan said, “it’s good training for the United Nations…”
     He laughed at his own joke. I bet Ethan doesn’t think I’m smart enough to get into the United Nations. Well, I could just show him.
     My father leaned over and kissed me goodnight on the cheek again in his kind and warm way. He is the best father I know and I am extremely blessed to have him.
    Meanwhile, Ethan decided to try out my dad’s Xbox again and ate more dessert while waiting for Ariel to text him. He totally acts like he owns this house, and I don’t really blame him. We’ve been hanging out together my whole life, even longer than him and the wonderful Ariel. He’s like the carpet, honestly.
    “Ariel can’t wait to hang out – with both of us. You really have to try to stabilize those mood swings, Honey,” Ethan said, pressing the remote control. “You need to get over your sister getting married before you.”
   “My sister is ancient but who ever thought your eldest brother would settle down?” I spoke as if I was thinking aloud. “Of course, I’m happy that she’s married even if I think the match is unsuitable. There is no spark between them in my opinion. But, at least they’ll be loyal to each other. After all, she’s boring and so is he. Perhaps like really does meet like but there is little comfort in having conjured up the match myself,” I snapped to Ethan.
    I was annoyed I’d played cupid with Ethan and Ariel, too. After all, I’d introduced the pair of them, unwittingly, in elementary school. When Ariel and I were fighting over a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Ethan interceded. That’s how they met. They were so unsuited, romantically. I think that’s why Ariel is relegated to the ‘friend zone.’ I’m going to have to speak to her about that, explain to her that Ethan just isn’t the one. It’s been obvious in recent months that Ariel thinks of Ethan as more than a friend when, he’s just not that into her.   
    “I would never have introduced you and Ariel had I known how wrong you’d both be for each other,” I mused.
   “Boo hoo Honey. We’re just friends and Ariel’s cool with that. So am I. There’s nothing lost, but your sister and my brother? That was just a lucky guess.”
   “It was not. You can’t overlook the role I played as matchmaker even if they are seriously boring as a couple. I was integral to their union.”
    Ethan flicked the channel as he munched on a piece of watermelon.
   “Doubt it, they were into each other from the moment they met. I caught them bumping uglies in the closet a year ago.”
    “Too much information.”
    Ethan laughed and switched channels.
    “Well, you can’t deny I got Phoebe and Mark together. Right from the start I pointed out all of Phoebe’s perfectly lovely qualities.”
   “Things Mark was no doubt aware of from the start,” Ethan said under his breath as he sipped his drink.  “You made nothing more than a lucky guess, Honey.”
    “Well, we shall see about that. This whole month is all about the lead up to Dance Party Fangdango – everyone gets to take someone and it’s so much better if that someone is fun and a good match. I have my eye on couples I’d like to see together already. You should know I don’t think you and Gigi are going to make it.”
    “Well, maybe we already have.”
    “Sure. Whatever.”
    “And what would you know, Honey? You give all the good advice but you’ve never dated anyone.”
    “I’m not dating until I’m sixteen. I like to keep my mind clear of distractions.  Anyway, I’m waiting until I’m older to meet college boys. I want Mr Right, not Mr Right Now.”
     Ethan nearly choked on his soda. 
    “But, I have someone in mind for the new girl…” ‘The New Girl’, I’d just heard about via text from Jessica was named Hilary and had just arrived from San Francisco. “Doesn’t one of daddy’s friends have a son who’s transferring along with you?” I hinted.
    “If you’re thinking about Flynn Elton , you should be warned. He’s not what you think. His older brother was in my class. My father worked with his father in Singapore… Flynn’s younger than me but I heard he’s a player. He only dates girls with money from the right social climbing families…”
    Ethan’s family had always been one of the wealthiest in Los Angeles and he’d never seen any sense in only talking to people because they had money. But he’d noticed not everyone had as good a value system as him. He really thought people like Flynn’s mom were kind of a joke. Flynn’s mom warned her son only to date girls whose father’s owned companies, according to Ethan.
    “There is nothing wrong with being wealthy,” I said, “as long as you use your wealth to do good things.”
    “Oh, ho hum, the voice of teen wisdom speaks.”
    “At least I have values,” I argued.
    “You should stay out of other people’s love lives and worry more about your own. You’ve been single your entire life, Honey. I think there’s a reason for that.”
    “Yeah, ‘cos like, I’m barely sixteen. I have other matches to make before my own.”              
    “Whatever. My point being… you don’t know anything.”
    “I’m very perceptive if you hadn’t noticed.”
    “Oh, I’ve noticed. Even so, Maria met her husband when she was sixteen, she was telling me all about it yesterday. You’re getting up there,” Ethan joked.
    “A single girl of good character who keeps her finances in order is always welcome at any party…”
    “Mmm… Where do you get all of your awesome advice? Jane Austen?”
    “Of course.”
    Ethan just smiled sarcastically.
    “Perhaps it’s time you played matchmaker for yourself. You should get busy with your own dating plans or you’ll have no one to take you to Dance Fangdango.”
    “As it happens I’m on the committee, so I don’t have to take anyone.”
    “Well, color me in!” Ethan said sarcastically.
    “No thank you. You are not on my short list.”
    “Newsflash;  I think you’re going to find most sixteen year old guys are more interested in finding legal ways to get wasted than being on your ‘shortlist’ Honey.”
    “Not at all. I already have at least half a dozen messages in direct connection to this topic: Who is Taking Who to the winter dance?”
     I flicked on my web page just to prove it.
    “I cannot believe there are starving people in the world and you think this stuff is important.”
     I could tell Ethan was jealous.
    “Of course, that’s true Ethan, but why do you always have to be such a killjoy? You know full well I founded an animal shelter and last year the Princesses raised funds during a bachelor and bachelorette auction that went towards building a school in South East Asia for abandoned children.”
     “South East Asia? I thought it was Brazil.”
     “Well, that too,” I said, “I spread myself too thin.” 
    “Not likely,” Ethan said, helping himself to another bowl of dessert as Ariel knocked on the door.
     “You should eat up. No man likes a skinny woman.”
     “Oh please,” I sighed.
     “Anyway, what makes you think you could find the right person for Flynn?”
    “I’ve already found her,” I said as I circled Hilary’s name on my short list of new arrivals at Sunrise High. (I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, how did I get hold of that? I volunteered to help Mrs Myers organize the school office, it’s not my fault really that I was privy to some private stuff – I’d never tell anyone.)
   “Honey, I’m pretty sure Flynn knows how to fend for himself in matters of romance.”
    He said the word ‘romance’ like he was making fun of it.
    “I think we can both be assured teenage boys know very little about finding their perfect match.”
    Ethan just shrugged and said, ‘get real Honey – open your eyes. Some girls might be obsessed with relationships but guys are only interested in one thing… maybe two,” Ethan shrugged.
    I wondered what the second thing was.  
    “You need a reality check,” Ethan added, before continuing with trying to reach his highest game score ever.   
    There was a buzz at the door just as I was considering the appropriate response.  
     It was Gigi. Ariel was with her. They had arrived for Ethan’s gaming group and to basically interrupt our discussion.
     Ethan was at the door in a nano-second.
  Though I have to admit Ethan Knightly comes from a lineage of extremely hot Bel Air bachelors, he clearly isn’t the least bit interested in dating anyone for longer than about a week. Poor Gigi. She smiled sweetly, I smiled in return.
   In the light of the gaming screen, Ethan Knightly is seriously not bad – his looks verge from cute boy to seriously ridiculously cute boy: dark hair (it runs in the family), blue eyes, hot and muscular chest from all of his athletics training and swimming at the beach during summer and not too much gaming...
    Snap out of it Honey Woodhouse, I thought. You have far more important work to do than re-imagining your neighbor is hot. The world, your world, the cul de sac of Bel Air that leads to Sunrise and the halls of Sunrise High School – they all need you.
    Of course, I was slightly deluded but it is only in hindsight that this became apparent to me. I guess that’s what ‘delusion’ is.