Friday, January 24, 2014

Fiction Friday: "Found" Short Story

I found this short story when I was digging through my files the other day. I have absolutely no recollection of having written it, though I recognize the characters. But yes, the name Kerry Anne is a portmanteau of my name and K.B.'s. The narrator is an amalgam of several middle-school friends.

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My mother is the mother that all the other girls want. Or most of them. They tell me this when they come over to visit and there are fresh-baked cinnamon rolls on the counter. They say things like, “Wow, your mom is, like, the best! My mom just keeps frozen pizza snacks in the freezer and thinks that’s a big deal.” Or, “Your mom actually sewed you a gown? No way!”

And it’s not that she’s super permissive or anything. When we hang out at my place, we still have to follow basic rules. We aren’t allowed to drink or anything stupid like that. Or stay up all night, though we do stay up pretty late, as long as we aren’t loud and wake up my annoying brothers, Pete and Tim.

But mostly I think they like her because they sense she likes them being there – the door is always open. When my friends want me to go their house they’re always saying things like, “Okay, lemme just ask my mom, okay?” And then it’s never a sure thing that their mom will say yes. Half the time there’s some lame excuse. At my house, it’s more like, “Okay, lemme tell my mom.” I think someone would have to be dying before my mom would send someone packing. Even if it means scrambling to thaw another pork chop or cook some extra rice or potatoes, guests are always welcome. I guess you can tell I’m thinking specifically of dinner time. Usually, if I have a friend over near dinnertime, my mom just assumes she’ll stay. Same with my middle brother, Pete, and his friends. (My youngest brother, Tim, is too young to have friends whose moms would let them stay away for supper.) Honestly, I can’t remember the last time it was just our family for dinner, just me, my mom, my dad and my two hyperactive brothers.

I have this one friend I met in junior high whose family is just weird. Not in a kids-locked-in-the-basement kind of way, just, well, there’s always this feeling that someone is about to blow his cool. So we spend more time at my house than at hers. We’re like best buddies, kind of like sisters.

Except that we look completely different. I have the kind of red hair and blotchy freckles everyone hates as a kid. At least I’m a girl, so I don’t get picked on like Tim does. (Somehow Pete lucked out.)  I mean, I know beautiful celebs like Nicole Kidman or Julianne Moore are redheads – they may even be natural redheads. But they have, like, a whole team of people who make their hair look great. Plus they both have great figures.

My figure isn’t bad: I’m pretty athletic, so I’m in good shape. But I’m not skinny. I take ballet, so my legs are like solid muscle. Seriously, if I flexed, you could knock against my calves and they would feel like wood.

This friend I was talking about, though, Kerry Anne, is just skin and bones. My mom says she’s delicate, like a china doll. My mom actually used that expression. I was trying on a green sweater I borrowed from Kerry Anne, and she said, “Oh, you look so pretty. On Kerry Anne, it makes her look like a china doll. You look more like a teen model.” So, not exactly insulting me, but still. It kind of explains how different we look.

Kerry Anne is one of those tiny little women who is so delicate she looks like she would break if you hugged her too hard. She told me that she used to be really skinny. I hate to think what that looked like, because she’s pretty darned scrawny as it is.

She’s not anorexic or anything. I mean, she eats a ton. No kidding. She eats more than I do. My dad joked that she must have a worm, which pretty much ruined my appetite. And my mom commented once that she does go to the bathroom almost right after supper as if she might be bulimic or something. But Kerry Anne just says she has a really fast metabolism and eating makes her have to go. I don’t think that’s normal, but I also trust her when she says she isn’t puking up the quiche Lorraine my mom just served.

She has bad hair too, but in a completely opposite way to mine. Hers is pin-straight – how ironic is that? – and fine, and it just hangs there limp like picked dandelion stems unless she does something to it. She gets perms a lot, but then they start to grow out so she has this flat straight hair on the top and frizz at the bottom. Not a good look on anyone. And her hair is this mousey brown. Except, when she perms it, it goes a little blonder, so then it’s not too bad, colour-wise.

The only thing Kerry Anne complains about when she’s at our house is my dad: he likes to walk around in his boxer shorts. He’s always done that. He’s not like a perv or anything. He doesn’t flash, but Kerry Anne is just – she just can’t wait to leave the room when he comes in.

Which isn’t usually a problem. We spend most of our time in my bedroom. Which is another thing Kerry Anne loves about my mom. She’s commented a couple of times that my room is really nice. I don’t think it’s all that special, but I guess it’s pretty nice. I have coordinated bedding. And my mom did this really cool thing with my closet doors where she took a big poster and cut it into a, what’s it called, a triptych? One of those three-panel things. Anyway, it’s a poster of horses, and I have to admit it is pretty cool. And I have a desk in my room, and nice curtains.

These are all things that Kerry Anne doesn’t have. Her mom painted her room this god-awful orange. It’s like living inside an orange – I’m not exaggerating either. What was she thinking? I didn’t want to insult Kerry Anne, but there was no ignoring the ugliness of that paint. At first Kerry Anne wanted to make it all seventies retro cool and get a brown bedspread and some shag carpeting, but they couldn’t afford it. So she has this grey and pink bedspread with this hideous paint. I didn’t even think the room needed painting, but go figure.

Anyway, I’m thinking about her a lot right now because we’re about to start high school next fall, and I can’t help wondering what will happen to our friendship. We’ll be going to Pearson High. Kerry Anne lives in that neighbourhood; my dad teaches there and says it’s the high school with the best academic reputation, not that he’s biased or anything. My family lives in the Lord Elgin area. But Lord Elgin does NOT have a good reputation. We’ve heard that a lot of the kids there do drugs, and the courses are too easy. In order to go to Pearson, I have to select a course that Lord Elgin doesn’t have. So I’m going to take Latin, and Kerry Anne has agreed to take it with me.

But that’s not the big issue. I’m more worried about the social stuff. For instance, she is more attractive to the guys. I can’t kid myself about that. And it’s weird because, like I said, it’s not like she’s all that much better looking than I am. I mean, if you look at us from most guys’ perspective, I’m probably better looking just because I have bigger boobs.

But last week we were out at the mall, you know, just hanging out, sharing a soft pretzel in the food court and this one guy starts talking to us.

“Do you go to Nelson?” he asks, out of the blue. I think he’d been watching us for a while. He was sitting to my left, so I hadn’t really noticed him, though I guess Kerry Anne had. I turn so I can see him. He’s not bad looking. Shorter than I am, and kind of skinny, but clean, nice complexion, good hair. Bad posture (bugs me because I’m a dancer, and so I care about posture), but he’s dressed nicely – not nerdy or too metrosexual. I can’t handle guys who look like they spend more time getting dressed than I do. He’s eating fries.

Kerry Anne and I look at each other and we laugh, because we’re still in junior high and can’t believe he thinks were high-school girls. Probably people listening would’ve called it a giggle, but I find that insulting, like, as if all girls giggle and simper.

“Why do you care?” Kerry Anne asks, all flirty. I was about to answer, “No,” but I bit my tongue instead. Not literally, just, you know, I didn’t say anything.

So right away this guy is all flirting right back: “I care about wherever you go, baby.” Gag me with a spoon! Kerry Anne and I look at each other and just burst out laughing.

“That is quite the line. Does it work on anyone above Grade Two?” she tosses right back at him. Again, I wouldn’t have answered that. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve said, but then I wouldn’t’ve gotten that far into the conversation.

“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” he answers. “So where do you go?” The guy is not backing down. It’s like, the more she rebuffs, the more he wants to play.  I’m definitely starting to feel like a third wheel.

“We’re not telling or you’d probably just switch schools to be with us or something,” Kerry Anne parries. “Where do you go?”

“Pearson.” No surprise.

“Good school? You like it?” This time we’re both honestly interested.

“Be better if you were there.” This one he tosses with a big grin like he knows how he sounds like a dumbass and he’s making fun of himself. “But they do have dances. Do you dance?”

“Do monkeys eat bananas?” Again, how she comes up with these lines, I can’t figure. We both laugh again, and so does the guy.

“What would you think of coming to our dance next Friday?” And we both know that by “you” he means her, Kerry Anne.

This time Kerry Anne actually has to stop and think. She’s doesn’t look at me or at him, just pretends she’s really thirsty drinking her diet cola. I can tell that she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings (a little late, there, really), but that she is attracted to him.

“Mmm,” she stalls. “I don’t go anywhere without my personal bodyguard,” she says, nodding in my direction. “Wanna go?” she deftly throws the ball in my lap.

“Do monkeys eat bananas?” Okay, so I lose points on originality, but we all cracked up anyway.

And that’s how we ended up invited to our first high school dance before we even got to high school. Of course, we still had to get his name: Bill Windsor. We didn’t give him our phone numbers or e-mail addresses (my mom had already lectured me on that), but he gave us his phone number and e-mail address, and we agreed to make arrangements sometime this week – where to meet and all that.

Taking the bus home we were hyperactive. This time I had to admit that we were giggly. No other word for it. We replayed the conversation.

“‘Be better if you were there’,” I say in my best imitation Bill voice. And we crack up all over again.

“He is really cute, isn’t he?” Kerry Anne asks as if we hadn’t already agreed on that point. But even while we’re laughing and talking about how cute he is, I’m kind of miffed that I’m expected to tag along on this date. I mean, a real date, not like the stuff we’ve done so far, just hanging out with guys and girls all together, no one really asking anyone out or anything.

“Oh crap,” Kerry Anne interjects, “how the heck am I going to get permission to go to a fricking high school dance?”

The mood is instantly deflated. We both know that her mom and dad will think she’s a slut if she goes to a high school dance – and with a date, no less!

“Oh well, maybe it’s just as well,” I say. Part of me really hopes this whole thing falls through. It’s exciting and all, but I think it would probably be better to wait until we’re in high school ourselves.

“Are you kidding?” She looks at me like I am an actual monkey eating a banana while riding on a bus beside her. “We just have to work it out. Will your parents let you go?”

Good question. They might. First of all, my dad teaches there, so he might even be chaperoning the dance, and secondly, my parents are pretty good about trusting me. And my dad might even know Bill Windsor and know if he’s a decent guy.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’ll just have to ask and see how it goes.”

“Okay. IM me after you talk to them.”  By now we’re at her stop. She gets off and starts walking toward her house while I try to figure out how to ask my mom. Or even if I want to. But I know I’ll have to say something or else Kerry Anne’ll bring it up next time she’s over.

So, you see, it’s started already. Guys-wise, she’s already leaping into the high-school thing. I’m just tagging along. And it bugs me.

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