Morning comes, you're still up, of course. Dad gets up, does his elliptical work. Mom's cooking sausages and eggs. Heather's in the bathroom. Normal morning routine. Nobody comes up to check on you, but surely they know you're here. Heather saw you. She knows you're home. Did she not bother to tell your parents?
Your dad is already seated. He looks up from the paper, regarding you, "Hey son." And that's it. Their whole reaction.
"That was for Benny, silly," your mom corrects gently as she scoops out some scrambled eggs and puts two sausage links on a plate that she places in front of you.
"Honey, he's a bright boy... I mean, Benny is a bright kid," your mother corrects herself as she refills your dad's OJ. "I'm sure he's considered all the options. Just keep in mind, it's rather painful."
They sit still, which is sort of dumb for a video shot, but well, you know, parents. As you dig into the eggs and sausage, which are pretty delicious, you check the feed. There they both are, your mom, your dad. Moving, and not moving just like you saw.
Except their eyes are closed.
After a quick peck, "Eileen, this is messed up! I have no idea what's going on with my family. They've turned into the Cleavers." I tell her about the sex change crack, everyone's response.
"Do you think they did something to your parents? Your sister? Why?"
"I don't think it's you, Benny. You'd never do something like that to your parents." She fiddles with the shuffle until Killing Me Softly by the Fugees comes on.
You switch to Happy, and her eyes bug out with surprise, "Hey! Did I even have that on there? Did you sneak that song on my shuffle?" Then she's singing along with you, letting you hold her hand as she pulls into a space with her free hand on the wheel. She laughs after putting the hooptie in park, and leans over to make out with you for a minute or so.
But it's over too soon as she piles out of the car and waits for you to come up with her, holding out her hand for you. She evidently wants to be very open about you two being together again. She's quite proud.
The football players don't glare at you this time, Benny. They're in their own world, chatting about the big game coming up. Who are they about to play? Why do you even know that?
Hey, are there any soccer games coming up, too?
I grab Eileen's hand. Not ostentatious, but I've got no problems being open about it. She's gorgeous, smart, funny, athletic, and has a slamming bod. (Also some rather fine skills, but I'm fine keeping that to myself.) "Think I should stop by the office or something? Or just pretend everything's normal..." I've been getting pretty good at that.
She checks over a computer screen, "Hmn, looks like all your sent-home work is complete, so you're good to return to class." She looks up over her horn-rimmed glasses, "Please try to watch the absences for the rest of the year."
No time to catch Coach before homeroom. "I'll be a few minutes late for lunch - need to catch Coach and take my lumps." I give Eileen a kiss and head to class.
Morning classes are same as always. Nothing's changed, it seems. Nothing much. Feels like a couple girls are watching you, like Janey, the JV cheerleader. Also, Anne, the girl with a cherry red Mustang, she's totally checking you out. How are you handling that?
Are you going to Coach's office? He teaches history here at the school. Trying to catch him on a free period?
Janey and Anne? I've seen this before, even with my limited experienced. As soon as a guy or girl is attached, it's like they're wearing a Ring of Charisma +3 or something. I enjoy noticing that they're noticing me, but I'm not tempted at all. The grass is not greener.
I know Coach teaches right before my lunch, so I scoot over to his classroom as soon as the period bell rings. I'm there to catch him as he comes out. "Coach? Got a minute?"
Wow, it hurts to do this, but I can't have the team counting on me when I might be who-knows-where fighting monsters.
"Bravo sierra, Marks," he says in that clipped tone he takes when he's about to lecture. "This team needs you. You rest up for a week, then we'll work you back in with drills and running." He opens up the field house, flips on some lights.
He stalks over towards his office, continuing, "I'm sure we can skip drills and running if you come back sooner."
Trish, the swimmer who won state last year, she's watching the pair of you. Who's she watching more, you or Eileen?
"Are you a good quitter, Benny?" Eileen asks.
Today's PLS special is "Supreme," apparently, which means that there are indistinguishable little bits of "vegetables" along with the "pepperoni", "sausage" and "cheese." Still, c'mon, it may not be pizza, but it's pizza-approximate. I scarf a bite while it's still reasonably, non-litigation-bait hot. (There's a rumor that some kid from Central sued the school system for burning the roof of his mouth on a slice of PLS a few years ago, and they've turned down the heat lamps ever since.)
"I'm a bad quitter, Eileen. Coach totally kicked my ass with the 'I don't care, we need you.' thing. He even Bravo Sierraed me."
She takes a bite of the PLS, "Trish is totally checking me out, Benny." It's casual, her tone, but she sounds a little bashful. Suddenly, she turns to look right at you, "Listen. Don't ever ask me for a three-way, okay? That would totally break my heart... even if the other guy was really hot." She holds the serious look for a beat, then cracks a grin.
Mr. Armstrong walks by your table, rather obviously. He glares at Eileen, and you, for an uncomfortable length. Eileen removes her hand from your thigh. She shifts a little, signalling that you should probably remove your hand, too. She doesn't say anything, though. Do you?
"Hey, you have any plans this weekend?" Eileen asks brightly, changing the subject. "I want to go to the lake. You can come, too." She gives you one of her smirks, "I should be, ah, good to go then. Okay?"
"Eileen, I just want to be here, with you. Screwing up like a normal teenager. Messing around with my hot not-dead girlfriend. Not being a hero." I click my heels together, silent in my cross-trainers. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas. Glinda, you bitch.
You two fall into your normal patter, she doesn't press for more info. Take up trays, head off to classes as the bell rings. Anything you need to do for the rest of the school day?
This is Trish by the way:
She's got her books held in both arms, pressed against her chest. She comes up to lean against the car beside Eileen's, "Hey Benny." she calls in a sing-songy voice. "You look nice today. How are you?"
Trish pauses, looks at you for a moment, then asks, "So, uhm, I know you're doing really great in lit. HEather told me you're acing it! Which is awesome."
Her tone shifts a little, more downcast, "I'm.... not. Like awful. I need some, you know... help."
"Well hey, what do you know?" Eileen calls as she gets closer. "Looks like Trish the swimmer girl decided to give you the time of day, Benny. Wow, man. How long have you been crushing on her?" Eileen's smiling at you, like this is a really funny joke.
"Ah? Seventh grade sometime? Not anymore, though. I have seen the error of my ways and repented. I didn't even look at her ass when she walked away."
Keep it light, that's good.
Hey, did I see my sister at school today? How's she acting, away from the house?
"Too bad, man," she says when you get in the car. She's still leaning over a bit, but you've got enough room to slide in. "She has a really nice ass." Eileen chuckles again, then sits up straight and starts the car.
"Play us some tunes, Benny." Eileen orders as she pulls out of the lot nice and slow. "I wanna buy us some slushies and drive up to make-out point." She looks over at you, grinning, "To reward you for repentance."
"Sour Apple surprise, coming up." She heads into the store, leaving you in the hooptie. The convenience store is one of those newer ones, with glass windows throughout, so you have plenty of opportunity to watch Eileen. She heads up to the slushie machine, grabs the biggest, 64 oz. cups, then pours hers first, a custom mix of grape and cherry, then your green Sour Apple. She picks out the super long straws, an rips the paper off near the top of each one, tears along the side, leaving just a small amount of straw paper on the top, then drops the straws into the slushies. Grabs a handful of napkins, which takes a bit since the dispenser only wants to give out one at a time, but she works ten out of the thing before she takes everything up to pay for it. All the while, she's oblivious to you watching her, just going through the routine of buying slushies. Really big ones.
She hauls them both out to the car with a big smile on her face, like "lookie what I have here!".
I bat my eyelashes. "Is that for lil' ol me? It's sooo biiig!"
After a few minutes of driving, Eileen says while still watching the road, "My mom's pretty excited about us dating. She even made sure I had a three month supply of the pill. So... I guess we have her blessing."
"I know. It's fucked up. I don't even know how to deal with it, either."
You ask about the lake, and she slows down. You're currently on a wide road, so she pulls over. Looks at you directly, ignoring the traffic going by. You're in a stretch of road with no houses around. "You wanna head back and pack now? It's Friday. We could just go for the whole weekend, stay at the cabin."
Who's cabin is it anyway?
You pull up to the driveway and Eileen says, "I'll need an hour to pack up all my stuff and some food. I figure we spend the night Friday and Saturday, come back Sunday? I've got cell coverage, so we're cool."
The cabin was originally Eileen's grandfather's, and her Mom holds the deed, but four families have spent a lot of time over the years and put sweat equity into keeping it in good shape, even improving it. Eileen and her Mom, of course; my family (I remember the first time Heather picked up a hammer like it was a snake, and how she eventually really got into the carpentry side of things); the Kidds, whose children are grown now and rarely go up to the cabin now that they're retired and travelling in their motor home; and the Jacksons, who moved away last year. This summer it was mostly me, Eileen, and her Mom, with the occasional cameo from Heather and my own mother.
Trying not to tense up like I'm entering a foreign country alone, I walk into the house. "Mom?"
Your dad and sister aren't home yet.
I know what she should say, I know what questions she should ask. Wondering what's going to come out of her mouth, worried she'll say no, worried she'll say yes.
I head upstairs to pack. Jeans, sweats, a jacket (getting cold), a few flannel shirts because Eileen once teased about them making me look "manly." All the usuals, plus the rest of the condoms (eleven? is that enough?). My new phone and the flippie, just in case. I look at the GoPro and make a conscious decision not to bring it along. I bring my bag downstairs and head out the back door to get the charcoal from the shed, put it on the porch. My bag follows it, and the ridiculous number of sandwiches Mom made. Ready. Forty minutes. Twenty minutes to go.