The story so far: Kate has just spent a couple of hours in the Cleveland Metroparks riding her horse, Kenny. The time she spends with Kenny is when she feels most at peace. Alas, Kate has obligations she must attend to — a party with her boyfriend, Brian — and the ride must end. As much as she loves Brian, Kate wishes for a life as simple as her rides in the forest with Kenny. The year is 1987.
My mom and dad are on their way out the front door when I return home from my ride in the Metroparks. A taxi parked in the street has its engine running. Dad hands their bags to the driver. My mom rushes up to me.
”I’ve already given instructions to your brother, and I left the number of the hotel on the refrigerator. You should have plenty of money and meals until we get back, but just in case, the emergency credit card is in your dad’s jewelry box, next to his old fraternity ring.”
”Carolyn, we have to go,” my dad pipes in.
”Be good, Katie. And no parties.”
”Love you kiddo. Oh, and Andrea called. Four times.”
They both give me a peck on the forehead and rush to their cab to the airport. They’re flying to Chicago for my dad’s 25th high school reunion. I carry my bag into the house where my younger brother, Timmy, is lounging on the couch. He has a bag of Doritos in one hand and the cable remote in the other. Currently he’s ogling the strippers in the Motley Crue ”Girls, Girls, Girls” video. Timmy will be in the 9th grade next year.
”Mom and Dad said I coule sleep over Max’s,” Timmy says his eyes never leaving the TV screen.
”What’re you up to?”
”Party at Eric’s.”
He sits up, spilling the Doritos and exposing a huge, nacho cheese dust smile.
”Don’t even. You’re not in high school yet, Timmy.”
”Stop calling me Timmy. I don’t want everyone in high school to call me that.”
I roll my eyes. ”Sorry, Tim.”
”Is, uh, Andrea going to be there?”
”Tim, let me be clear: You are not ever going to wind up with Andrea. So please get a grip and aim for girls in your own league.”
”You don’t know that, Kate. Maybe I’ll show up at Eric’s and–“
”If you step foot in the Garcia house tonight, you can be sure I’ll tell Andrea about those pictures you took of her sunbathing in the back yard. I mean, come on, gross.”
His eyes go wide. ”You wouldn’t!”
His cold hard stare warms and he acts nonchalant. ”Eh, we’re gonna watch all three Mad Max films, anyways.”
Mel Gibson. Yummy.
I leave Timmy — Tim — with his testosterone fueled dose of pole dancers and heavy metal. I head into the kitchen for a snack. Searching through the refrigerator, I find the makings of a nice salad (Mom left hard boiled eggs, awesome). The telephone rings. I answer it, cradling the phone receiver between my shoulder and ear while I make a salad.
”Hello?” I answer.
It’s Andrea, my lunatic best friend. She must be watching the same channel as Tim, because ”Girls, Girls, Girls” is playing in the background wherever she’s at. Andrea has always liked the heavy stuff. She took me to see Pat Benatar when we were in the 7th grade. I left wondering if the ringing in my ears would ever stop. She left with a hoarse voice from screaming and singing at the top of her lungs.
”I was with Kenny,” I explain.
My brother calls out from the foyer. ”I’m leaving,” and the front door slams.
”What were you saying, Andrea?”
”So I was at Zayres, looking for a new pair of shoes to wear tonight, because, you know, you can never have enough pairs of sandals, and you’ll never guess who I ran into. Guess. You have to guess, cause you’re never going to guess!”
”Mark Koenig. That’s right, Mark Koenig! He was shopping for a new coffee maker cause he broke his mom’s when he and his friends tried to brew beer in it and she was, like, totally pissed and all, and so he had to, like, buy her a new one. Anyway, he complimented me on my outfit and then he said, Hope to see you tonight.’ Did you hear that? He hopes to see me tonight! He wants to see me tonight!”
I have to make clear that Andrea is not mental. She’s actually really smart and a lot of fun. That said, she doesn’t have a lot of experience with boys. In fact, she didn’t blossom socially until the end of 10th grade when her braces came off and she got contacts. Somehow, removing the glasses raised her voice an octave and brought out her inner ditz. Not… that we all don’t have some ditz in us.
I’m happy that she’s all excited about Mark Koenig, even if he’s beneath her. Mark’s one of those hip-hop wannabes who wears sweat suits and Adidas sneakers like Run- DMC. Whatever. I think they look ridiculous. But, and this is a big but, Andrea likes him. I’ve told her what I think, she took it all in, and that’s that. I tolerate. Kind of like hanging around with Eric. I tolerate.
”Are you listening?” Andrea chirps into the phone.
”Huh? Of course, Andrea.”
”Ah ha! You weren’t listening!”
”I’m sorry. I’m just really hungry.”
”Totally understand. So how was Kenny today?”
”Great. I feel like he’s the best part of my life, you know?”
”See, you understand. But Brian…”
”Kate. Katie. Kate-a-rooney. This won’t do. How are you going to make him understand? I mean, this is, like, a huge part of you. It’s what you wanna do with the rest of your life. I mean, if he doesn’t get it after all that, well… I hate to say it, but maybe you should–“
The doorbell interrupts her, or at least I stop listening to her when it rings.
”Andrea, Brian’s here.”
”And your parents just left! You go, girl!”
Andrea hangs up.
When I open the front door, Brian and Eric are standing there, giggling. They smell like hard alcohol.
”Drink much lately?” I ask.
”Just a sip, Kate, it was nothing,” Eric claims.
”Right,” I reply, skeptical. ”Brian, seriously, you smell awful.”
”It was just a little Jack,” Brian says.
”Nothing,” Brian says.
”No one,” Eric adds.
They both chuckle; another one of their private jokes.
”See you guys at seven, right?”
”Seven.” Brian repeats.
I force a smile, ever the good girlfriend. Eric closes the door behind him. The moment the door clicks, Brian is on his way to the kitchen to scavenge for food.
”Haven’t showered, yet, huh?” Brian calls out.
I follow him into the kitchen. Before I can answer, he’s already buried his head in the fridge.
”Just heading up. Care to join me?”
He looks up with a hunk of chicken stuck to his cheek. Never mind.
”You say something, Kate?”
”Uh, no. Is that, uh, what you’re wearing?
”It’s just, you don’t want to look like a slob, do you?”
As he chews, a few crumbs drop from his mouth to the floor.
”What’s it matter?”
”Because you’re not a slob.”
”Fine, whatever you want, Kate.”
”I just thought you’d want to look nicer around your friends.”
I turn to go upstairs.
”Wait, Kate, you aren’t pissed off are you?”
”I’m fine,” I call back, climbing the stairs.
I don’t reply.
”Kate!” he says, grabbing my arm to stop me in the middle of the stairwell.
”I’m tired. Do we have to go to Eric’s tonight?”
”Are you kidding? It’s my best friend’s party.”
”Well duh! I was, like, kidding,” I say, selling the lie as best I can.
Brian wraps his arms around me while we stand on the stairs. For the first time since he arrived, I feel like he wants to be here.
”What’s really bothering you?” he asks, sincere.
”I don’t know, just a lot of stuff to do before I have to leave, stuff you have no interest in.”
”That’s not true. I’m interested.”
”Oh yeah, sure you are.”
His bloodshot eyes study me.
”Is that what’s really bothering you?”
You mean, like: Where are we as a couple? Do you still love me? Do I still turn you on? Why don’t you get what it is that I want? Maybe I should be with someone who seems interested in me, like Tom Meany. Wait a minute, where the hell did that come from? I haven’t thought of Tom Meany, football captain and Mr. Popularity, since we ran into each other over spring break. Why am I thinking of Tom Meany?
”Of course that’s what’s bothering me, Brian.”
”C’mon, let me start the shower for you.”
Brian leads me up the stairs, down the hall and into the bathroom. He turns on the shower, checking the temperature with his fingers. I remove my hairpins, take off my T-shirt and unbutton my pants.
”All set,” Brian announces. His eyes look right past me, standing before him half naked. He squeezes by and gives me a peck on the cheek, like I’m a little girl or something. Un-sexy.
”I have one of your shirts in my closet. And you can borrow a pair of my dad’s shorts.”
He smiles, giving in. ”Sure.”
The bathroom door closes, and steam covers me. Climbing into the hot shower, my exhaustion and impatience starts to slip away. I decide to shave my legs.
Twenty minutes later, I dry myself and wrap a towel around my body. I’m relaxed, actually feeling good. Entering my bedroom from the hallway, I find Brian in his boxers, studying a pair of my dad’s plaid shorts, as if they were foreign to him.
Watching the muscles in his shoulders move, something in me stirs. I let my gaze drift down to the small of his back where light strands of blond hair have grown. I can’t help myself. He’s adorable, and I want him. I know that he’s staying over this weekend, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun right now. And if he’s going to get all shitfaced on me tonight, I better take advantage of this situation.
”Brian,” I say quietly, and drop my towel.
Today’s artwork is by Dw. Dunphy. Dw. is a writer, artist, musician, penguin chaser, and volunteer fear fighter. He is a founding member of Popdose and has just released the Kindle book, The Last Stand of Jasmine Jett.
Motley Crue’s song, ”Girls, Girls, Girls” is found on their 1987 album, Girls, Girls, Girls.
Read Chapter 12 of Legendary