Sunday, August 18, 2013

POPULAR (chapter fourteen: the refusal)

Chapter Fourteen
The Refusal
      That night, I fixed daddy his dinner but he typically brushed my culinary efforts aside (trying to get him to stick to the nutritious food plan I devised for him is difficult). He told me, ‘Honey, sweetie. You are the best daughter in the world but I’m just not hungry for carrots when I’m in the middle of a deal.”
   “You need your vitamin D, daddy. I’ve been reading about middle aged men needing extra vitamins to combat mood swings and depression.”
  “Don’t you mean women?”
  “No daddy, men can be just as affected by depression. It’s the scourge of the modern age.”    
  “Sometimes I wonder where you get your facts from Honey Woodhouse!”
  “The internet, of course.”
  Daddy shrugged and raced off to his study as usual. I wish he’d slow down.
  As I’d just returned from cheerleading practice (Hilary and I made the team) the only thing left for me to do was shower and change and wait for Ethan to come over for our movie night. Of course I’d never want to be one of those girls who ‘waits’ for her man, but since Ethan’s just a friend, those rules don’t apply to us.
    It was bothering me a little just how much I looked forward to hanging out with Ethan that day. It was like a change had come over me but I couldn’t identify what it was.
     I’m sure the last time we had movie night he snuggled just a bit closer to me on the couch. Then I remembered he said he might bring Gigi.
   Sure enough, there was a knock on the door of my home at exactly 6.30pm. Ethan is very reliable like that and we like to get started early.
   “Where’s your girlfriend?”
   “I didn’t bring her. Gigi has her linguistics study group.”
   “Oh, how riveting. Maybe… you should have gone with her. Just putting it out there, ” I added, placing a bowl of Ethan’s favorite chips on the table, “Sounds like  she has her eye on someone special in study group.” I added. “Like, maybe another boy…” This comment may have been slightly beneath me but I couldn’t resist.
   “She does not.”
   “Then why isn’t she here?”
   “Because I didn’t invite her!”
   “No need to get annoyed.”
    I went to check the popcorn with a smile on my face. I made Ethan’s favorite with extra butter. We’d chosen a Star Wars retrospective for the evening’s viewing but it was just an excuse for me to finish my self-manicure (I’d missed my weekly appointment at Marvin Markin’s to go to cheer practice). Besides, I wanted to ask Ethan’s advice without him realizing it.   
  “You should be happy I even turned up since I’m kind of over your snarky little asides.”
  “Oh, you’ll never be over them, Ethan,” I said under my breath as I retrieved the starters Phoebe and I spent all afternoon making.
   Phoebe and I also manage to meet up once a week especially now she’s having her first baby. Wednesday is there too when she’s in town, and sometimes Mark is too. Mark Knightly is the perfect older man. I wish Ethan would take some notice of how to behave with women and how to dress, from him, since Ethan seems to ignore my influence at every turn.
   It appears I’ve gone too far tonight, though, since Ethan is sitting slouched on the couch with his feet on the coffee table.
   “Feet!” I can’t resist telling him.
   “Honestly, Honey, you are such a nagger. I can only imagine what sort of a nightmare girlfriend you’ll make for some lucky guy one day,” he said sarcastically.
   Ethan laughed at his own joke but I took the high road and ignored him.
   “Not all of us are planning on serving men our whole lives. A woman should always be proud to be her own person and then if she finds a man who enhances her life, adds to it in happiness and doesn’t take, then she should marry that man. However, friendships and being social should also remain important.”
  “Thanks for that little piece of advice, Honey. Since you’re so into being social and you think you are so ahead of the pack gossip wise, I think I might know something you don’t, for once.”
  “I doubt that,” I said under my breath.
   I placed some snacks (real man food) on the coffee table. I’d even draped one of my summer sarongs over the lamp to set a good example for Ethan – let him know that women like soft lighting and generous settings, and lots of food – even if they don’t want to pig out in public.
    Ethan stuffed at least six mini pizzas in his mouth, complained that we could have just dialed a delivery pizza, guzzled my soda and asked, when he’d barely finished eating, “so, don’t you want to know?”
    “Know what?”  I pretended I didn’t care as I opened my favorite nail polish.
    “The gossip I found out today in physics class.”
    I sighed. “
   “The only thing I know about physics class is that not much gossip happens there.”   
    “Ha ha. Well, since my study partner was composing a letter to your new best friend…”
   “Hilary?” First of all, although Hilary is my new friend, I would hardly call her my bestie; she’s too new. To find those friends I’d have to go back to grade school to Wednesday and Ty and Veronica and…”
   “If you must put it that way, then yes Ethan; you. You are like this couch. I have known you so long, you are extremely comfortable, in an argumentative kind of way, but I’m also happy to walk all over you."
    “Mmm... you might wanna re-phrase that.”
    “Ha ha…” I said
    “Anyway, as I was saying, normally we talk about…”
    I did my best to look bored and gave a little yawn as I ate some popcorn.
    Ethan continued, “… physics stuff, stuff you wouldn’t be interested in, but yesterday, he was trying to compose a long text to ask a girl to prom. It was pretty funny, I’ve never seen him so intense. But hey, since that’s all settled, you can stop matchmaking now and spend more time with your old friends…”
   “What do you mean?”
   “Well, seems your new friend has sorted her dating dilemmas out herself.”
   “She has not!”
   “Well, she could do a lot worse than date a smart, sincere guy like Rafe Martin.”
   “I have news for you, she’s not going with him.”
   I felt a sheepish blush covering my cheeks. My helpfulness was certain to be mis-interpreted by Ethan.
   “Would you like another glass of soda?” I asked, to take the edge off my own comments.
   “No. What did you do, Honey?”
   “I merely suggested that someone else, someone who really liked her wanted to ask her to prom instead and was intending to ask…”
   “You’re not seriously talking about Flynn Elton are you?”
   “Of course – he’s totally hot and happening and he has good dress sense.”
   “Flynn’s a player, Honey.”
   “Excuse mois?”
   “He plays people. He’s playing you. He sucked up to you  - not her! I heard his dad wants to close a real estate deal with your dad.”
   “Never mind, your dad is already onto it, he’s got it covered. I’ve been wondering how long it would take you to see through him.”
   “Oh, so you’re suggesting I wouldn’t know anything about business deals – except that I do deals every day with my matchmaking business. I’m even thinking of monetizing my blog!”
   Flynn almost spurted out his soda.
   “Yes, I’ve been working on all my matchmaking formulas and adding up the results – with a little bit of artistic embellishment. Peeps are sure to want to be part of my venture – something you’d know nothing about, clearly.”
   “Wait a minute. Rewind. Did you see her answer?”
   “Yes.” I added warily, thinking a straight out lie would never work with Ethan.
   “Did you type her answer?”
   “You know I’m not an expert typist. I would never do that!”
    “I don’t believe you, Honey.”
    “Rafe Martin is not Hilly’s type. Look, I keyed in all their details into my system, my laptop, admittedly. I didn’t have Rafe’s exact birthdate nor any of his personal details, but based on my observations, they are not a perfect match.”
    “If any such thing exists. It’s a high school dance, Honey.”
    “It’s a miss match, Ethan! Rafe is nowhere near Hilary’s social stature at school!”
     “You can’t be serious? He’s above it! The guy is a computer genius – he’s inventing his own gaming start up; he’ll be a millionaire by the time he’s twenty-one! He’s got a decent personality when people bother to include him and I’m told, by his sister…”
  “His sister! She’s sure to be impartial,” I added sarcastically.
  “…that when he goes out he has fashion sense! There, is that good enough for you little Miss Busybody!”
   “It’s not about me! It’s about Hilary. I only want what’s best for her.”
   “You mean what’s best for you.”
   “Well, of course I didn’t want her to be left a social pariah.”
   “Hilary Jones is an okay girl. She is not a stunning fashion plate. I agree she’s pretty, sort of, but she isn’t very popular…”
   “Not yet, she will be soon,” I said under my breath, “with my help.”
   “With your help, she’ll be a total outcast.”
   “Whatever.” I said, pretending not to be listening.
   “As I said, she is not some great socialite like those girls who are famous for being famous, neither is she an amazing beauty or an academic giant. I think Hilary would be lucky to get a date with Rafe…”
  “That’s just so typical of a male’s way of thinking!”
   “Wow, I’m impressed Honey, you’re growing into quite the little feminist with all your frilly frou frou skirts and lipstick and nail polish – what’s all this then?”
   He touched the edge of my blonde hair, freshly ironed and dipped into some awesome red hair color to keep the ends fashionable. It was very eye-catching and I couldn’t blame him for wanting to reach out and touch it.  And for a moment, even as he was sitting in a less dominant posse on the floor and arguing with me, I thought he was tempted to lean over, in the midst of our fight, rap his manly arms around me and…     Mwah! Kiss me!
   But he didn’t.  Instead, he got even more annoyed. He stood up and put his hands in the air and practically went ballistic.
   “Hilary was lucky that Rafe even noticed her let alone asked her to the stupid dance.”
   “Oh, so typical. All guys think that girls are lucky when they pay them even a moment’s attention and all guys think they are way smarter and more perceptive than women. By your standards, Hilary should do very well given that males are about as impressed with women who have a mind and ‘talk back’ as, as…. You! I mean, a guy would never choose to date intelligence over the pretty, c’mon.”
   “Don’t say ‘what’, it’s rude! Say ‘pardon’.”   
   “My point is that Hilary’s personality is not exceptional in any way.” Ethan seemed more than a little irritated by then and got up to leave.
   “And who are you to judge? As if men are only interested in females for their minds, not their looks and charm… as if.” I said sarcastically.
   “Any smart guy wants a girl he can hang with and talk to…”
   “But looks are important to most men. Whatever,” I shrugged. “I’m not really in the mood for Star Wars in my lounge room tonight anyway.”
  “Me either.”
  “You may leave,” I waved my freshly painted nails.  
  Ethan got up and actually climbed out the window which has always been a more direct way of getting from my house to his, than the front door. I mean, it literally took him less than ten seconds to disappear.
   “Oh!” I was so exasperated.
   Then as I looked up I saw Phoebe and Mark.  
   They were seated at the Knightly dining room table, where Ethan just brushed past his older cousin. Mark and Phoebe Knightly were holding hands as they read through some paperwork on the table. Honestly, they looked so in love it was almost too much information. Phoebe looked up and waved at me and Mark made a glum face because they both knew Ethan and I must have argued or Ethan would have wound up sleeping on the couch like he usually does on movie night.
   I huffed upstairs.
   That night, as I got ready for bed, I couldn’t shake the idea that somehow, someway, for once, I was wrong. And Ethan, who is usually so socially inaccurate, was right.