Saturday, December 4, 2010

Brian Ottomas - Ch. 1 - His Story Pt. 2

It was the next morning and Brian and his sister, Bridget were at the breakfast table.

“Now Brian you promised me and you won’t forget, right? You’re going to give up that girl."

“I forgot what a nag you are, Bridgie. As soon as I can, I’ll see her one last time and tell her she has to stay away and not call. I’ll be nice, but final.”

“That's good," she sounded relieved, "It’s for the best, if you—“

“I don’t want to hear it all again. I got the point.”

That day, however; Brian stalled. He practiced his guitar, worked out with his punching bag, spent some time in the pool and even called the musicians union to see what prospects were out there. He left his cell in the top drawer of his little bureau. But, the next day around 1 pm he drove to Galaxy Arcades hoping she would just happen to be there or come by. He knew it was a hangout for her friends. He planned to tell her in person and this way he wouldn’t be calling her. He told himself that was the only reason he was going there. When she didn’t show up by 3 he gave in and phoned her. They talked a bit and then he mentioned where he was. He knew she’d want to come there. She’d left eighty-gazillion messages and text messages on his phone. He hadn’t replied to any of them.

She looked so happy when she arrived. It was noisy and somewhat crowded so he suggested they go in one of the semi-private rooms. But once they were sitting there he could not bring himself to do it. After a couple of false starts he gave up and asked her to play a game of darts with him on the other side of the Arcade. He knew, now, he was not going to be able to say anything to her this night. She wanted to take a picture of him with her cell and asked that he take one of her. He said he hated having his picture taken, but he gave in. He asked if could he take one of her with his phone. She seemed happy about that.

Lori got a call that her friends were coming up to join her and she knew he would not stay around when Melanie and the girls were coming. He could see she was torn; she wanted to be with him; he assured her,

“No, it’s all right; I have to go now anyway.”

So Lori told her friends she’d be there waiting. She turned to Brian, her little face alight,

“Will you be coming here tomorrow?”

Why does she have to look so adorable?  

 “No, I doubt it, big audition tomorrow.”

“Oh, that's right! How exciting for you!”

“I’ll see you,” and he pulled her close to him for a moment, knowing he would not see her at all, not ever again. There was no reason to see her now; if he couldn’t tell her in person then he would have to do it over the phone.

Lori clung to him, but he released her and stepped back; she didn’t seem to notice. She was too joyous about the time they'd spent together. Brian was going to end everything, but she didn't know it.

He caught her chin with his fingers just for a moment and said,

“You’re such a pretty kid.”

He’d spoken almost unconsciously and caught himself. Leave, just get away, man. Now.

As he walked out of the arcade he knew he'd let her down. He should have had the guts to tell her in person.

That night he told Bridget about the audition. She was happy for him, but then she asked him,

“Did you see her?”



“I couldn’t tell her. I tried, but I couldn’t do it. I’ll have to do it over the phone.”

“If you don't stop seeing her, Brian, I’ll have to ask you to leave,” Bridget looked sad but determined, “I have my job and my own reputation to think of and I won't stand by and watch you ruin your life again.”

“Well maybe it would just be better for everyone if I left town anyway.” He felt like the biggest loser of all time.

“Brian!” she made a frustrated sound, ”I don’t want you to leave, I don't want you to wander around the country again! Just tell her goodbye. You need to meet some women of the right age, that’s part of the problem.”

He said he’d call Lori and end it. Bridget encouraged him to pursue this chance in the music field. Maybe doing what he really wanted to do would help him over this thing, too.

He auditioned for and got the job with a new band, although they had no bookings until next week. Actually, they hoped to get a job as an opening act for another, much more well-known band. They would be trying out for that later in the week, before their booking.

So Bridget invited two of her friends over for dinner, Cassandra Goth and Renesmee Cullen. Perhaps Brian would be charmed by one of them. But Brian brought home a coworker from the insurance company and fouled up her plans. It was Vasil Downey, Bridget could not stand the man—they’d been in some of the same classes in high school. He was boring and as far as she was concerned he was ugly to boot. She usually referred to him as "Vaseline" Downey. 

Vaseline got Brian in a game of SSX3 while Renesmee, the gamer of Pleasantview, played pinball, and Bridget was left to keep Cassandra occupied playing chess. Bridget could have pinched Vaseline's oily head off. Unfortunately, Brian didn’t appear to be interested in either of the women. That was odd, too, thought Bridget, because Renesmee always got the men when they went somewhere. When she wasn’t squealing over a pinball machine, that is. Finally Bridget was able to maneuver Brian into playing chess with Cassandra. But then, next door neighbor Beau Broke, who thought he was too sexy for his shoes, invited himself over for dinner (probably saw Renesmee and Cassandra arriving) and the girls were hanging on his every word at dinner instead of paying attention to Brian. She did manage to get rid of Vaseline before dinner. Darned if she was going to feed that bore. By the time the evening ended Bridget was so exasperated she wanted to scream. Nothing had gone the way she planned.

The next day, without any scheming from Bridget, Brian happened to meet someone new. Jenny Lomax was at Danny’s Market buying a phone and it got stuck in the machine. Brian helped her out. She claimed she was totally inept with electronic and mechanical things and pretty soon they were laughing. She was so obviously coming on to him that Brian just went with the flow. She practically invited herself over to his house. Bridget was working, some big meeting that was supposed to go on into the evening, so he had no problem with that.

Instead, the meeting she had was canceled; and Bridget ended up coming home early. She heard Brian fiddling with the synthesizer up on the third floor and was about to go up and let him know she was home when she heard a woman’s laughter. And it was definitely a woman’s voice and not a girl’s. Oh this is good! I’ll just slip out and give him some privacy. Without saying anything, Bridget went uptown to do a little shopping she needed to do anyway. Then she stopped for a meal at a restaurant and headed home. She started to go upstairs to put away her packages and heard a woman’s voice again, this time coming from Brian’s bedroom. Okay, definitely I will be getting too much information if I stay here, Bridget thought. She quickly put on her suit and went to take a swim. It was late afternoon, but still warm.

 Meanwhile Jenny was all over Brian. And he wasn't exactly fighting her off.

It was getting dark and Bridget was tired. When the sun went down it got cooler so she stayed in the heated water a bit longer. Come on, Brian, snap it up, Bridget thought, I’m freezing and my fingers are pruning! Then she heard the front door open. She swam over to the corner where she could see Brian and Jenny get into his car and take off. Thank goodness. She hauled herself out of the pool and went in to the house.

It wasn’t long at all before Brian came back in. By that time Bridget was eating a slice of cherry-cheesecake and listening to the cable news station.

“When did you get in? I thought you had to work until late?” Brian looked startled.

“Excuse me, it IS late. Anyway, the meeting got called off.”

“Well, why didn’t you go back to your office?”

“Because I got the day off and I took it. I’m so glad to see you’re interested in a woman closer to your own age, but, Brian, she’s kind of a…”

“Don’t go there.”

He cut himself a slice of cheesecake and sat down at the table.

“This was a one-time thing, anyway,” he told Bridget.

“Okay----but I hope you know she has a really obnoxious laugh!” Bridget got her opinion in there quickly before Brian could stop her. 


Next Brian Ottomas Chapter HERE


Friday, December 3, 2010

Brian Ottomas - Ch. 1 His Story Pt. 1

Brian Ottomas watched Lori Lassiter drive off toward Rapid Racers; then he came inside and shut the door. She'd been at their house all evening.

“What could you possibly be thinking of, Bry?” his sister Bridget’s voice was low but emphatic.

He shrugged slightly, “What?”

“You know what. When you asked me to fix dinner for someone named Lori Lassiter, like a fool I thought you meant her older sister, Grace.”

Brian started playing with his ever present hand-held game; then he said without looking up, “Why would you think that?”

“Well for one thing I knew you used to date a girl with the last name of Lassiter in high school. For another, I did not think my brother dated children so I expected a woman his own age to show up; that translated to Grace. This girl is what, 15?”

“Sixteen,” he said quickly, “And I’m not dating her.”

“Would you give me just a small break?” Bridget was getting worked up, “The point is that she’s under 18 so she’s a minor. Jailbait, Brian.”

“I told you I’m not dating her.”

"Oh, then what would you call it—babysitting?”

He continued to play with the game.

“Brian, look at me!”

Tossing the game on the love seat next to Bridget, finally he sat down in the chair.  Bridget thought she saw the old torment in his eyes.

She sat down on the floor across from  him and her voice was softer.

“You’re just getting your life back together, again, Bry.  That’s why I wanted you to move in with me; I knew you could make a new beginning. And it's going to be great. But if you don’t nip this in the bud you could be in real trouble.”

Brian sighed and looked away, then back at his sister,

“I never meant to get involved with her—I’m NOT involved with her, really,” he protested, “It’s just…”

“I know, Brian, ” Bridget cut him off, “Of course, I know. Except for the black hair she looks just like Corinne. It’s amazing.”

He slid down to the floor too, sitting across from her, Indian style, the way they used to do when they shared a room as children.

“I couldn’t believe it the first time I saw her,” he said, ready at last to talk about Corinne and how meeting Lori had made him feel like he was 19 again. He knew Bridget would understand if anyone did.

But before he could get started, Bridget closed up on him. He could see she was uncomfortable and wanted to drop the subject she’d just introduced. Or maybe she thought he was uncomfortable talking about it, he didn’t know. But she suddenly became abrupt,

“But you know she’s not Corinne, Bry. She's just a child who happens to look like someone you once knew. So you have to forget about her. Don’t call her, don’t text her, don’t see her, don’t contact her in any way. Promise me.”

She paused and Brian looked down, considering. He pulled at his lip.


“Okay, you’re right," he paused and then said, "I won't see her anymore, then. Okay?"

“Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to be that easy,” Bridget admitted, “She’s obviously got a very big crush on you. It won’t be enough for you to stop calling her, she’s going to keep calling you;so you’re going to have to make it clear to her not to come around or try to contact you. Make her think you’re not interested.”

“You just said I shouldn’t contact her.”

“And you won’t—after you break it off cleanly.”

Brian just looked at her.

Bridget sighed,

“I know you don’t want to hurt the girl’s feelings, but it’s better for her if you do. Just a clean break; but be nice about it.”

He was looking at his sister with growing irritation,

“Now, how can I tell her to get lost and still be nice? Why can’t I just not see her again? She'll get the idea.”

It was Bridget’s turn to shrug.

“All men are the same; social cowards. Okay, sure, give it a try. But when she’s sending you texts night and day wondering why you don’t answer, remember you heard it first from me.”

Bridget started toward the stairs and then stopped and said,

“Bry? You know that I’m sorry I even had to bring up Corinne.”

“Yeah. It’s okay.”

But it wasn’t okay. Not really. It had never been okay.

Brian went up to his own room and flopped on his bed, but the memories had already begun rushing in. The floodgates were open for the moment.

Corinne. Beautiful Corinne Turner was everybody’s favorite person on campus. She was the whole package, beauty, brains, compassion, talent. Brian was a goner. They’d met as freshman at the University and fell in love with each other almost immediately. For a whole year they were joined at the hip, attending all the campus social functions, studying, planning their careers. They were both music majors; with Brian it was guitar, drums and bass, and writing music, with Corinne it was piano and voice. They both just assumed they would marry after college, and considered themselves unofficially engaged. Neither set of parents wanted them to even talk about a wedding at this point, but everyone knew they would be together. They were a matched set.

In the fall of their sophomore year they were on their way to the October Festival dance. It was one of the worst wrecks in the history of the college. A drunk speeding down the road crashed into Brian’s car which careened into another car and pinned it against a tree.  All of the four kids in that car were killed instantly. Brian crawled out of the wreckage of his own vehicle and collapsed. He had multiple internal injuries, a broken leg that required two pins and various lesser cuts and contusions. He was in the hospital a long time. The worst for Brian, though, was when he woke up and learned that Corinne had died on the way to the hospital.

He never went back to school, he couldn’t stand the memories. He drowned in guilt. It didn’t matter that everyone told him he’d done nothing wrong, all he knew was that he had been one of the people driving and lives had been lost. His beloved Corinne was gone. The pain of simply missing her outweighed even the guilt.

Brian's first thought when he got out of the hospital was too join the army but the pins in his leg quickly put an end to that idea. He felt that he’d come to an impasse; nowhere to go, nothing to care about. He stayed away from Pleasantview. His folks tried to convince him to go to school somewhere else, they’d gladly pay for him to finish his education any where he wanted so he wouldn’t be confronted by painful associations at every turn. He wasn’t interested. For years he wandered here and there, working as a mechanic, selling insurance, slinging hash at a greasy spoon, working construction or on a road crew, it didn’t matter to him. He didn’t care where he went or what he did. He had shipped his guitar back home. Music was painful now, he never played. He lived all over the US. He stopped corresponding with his family.  

One bleak day he found himself in the mental ward of a hospital in a town far from home; he’d finally had that nervous breakdown he’d been working on for over 10 years. The good thing was that he got counseling and things started to turn around. He began taking evening classes at the community college there and got a part-time job with a local 3-man band that played mostly country-rock and took gigs at various venues within a 40-50 mile area. They made practically no money, but it felt great to be making music again. Brian had bought a beat up guitar at a pawn shop to be able to join the group. He missed his own guitar though, and feeling remorseful at last about the worry he must be putting his parents through, Brian contacted his family and let them know where he was. They were overjoyed to hear from him and he visited home one night on the pretext of getting a couple of his instruments that his parents had stored for him. While he did want his guitar and bass, the truth was he just suddenly needed very much to see them. It had been so long; his parents were both in tears when they hugged him. He stayed for supper. That’s when Bridget asked him to move in with her and share expenses. 

So Brian had decided to take a chance on Pleasantview one more time. He still loved music and now practiced guitar and bass in his free time, but he knew it was unlikely at his age he could make a living from it. He got a job selling insurance, he’d done that before. It was boring to him, but he was a people person and he was good at it. He and Bridget were as good a fit as they’d always been. For Bridget’s part, Brian was a big help with expenses and he was good about sharing chores and cleaning up after himself. For Brian, there was a  huge room on the third floor that Bridgie indicated he could use for his music. They were twins, they'd always been close until Brian had left town. They both loved some of the same things, jogging, games and gardening and a certain amount of privacy so it was working really well.

Until I started screwing up, Brian thought bitterly. Well, Bridgie is right; I’m playing with fire here. It took hearing her say it out loud for me to recognize it. It’s not fair to Lori, anyway, if I’m just seeing her because she reminds me of Corinne. She deserves more than being compared to a ghost, even if that ghost was the love of my life. It was brutal to put it that way, but he had to learn to finally say goodbye to Corinne. An old remembered pain started to rise up and Brian squashed it back down inside him. No. Not going to think about Corinne anymore tonight. That was the thing, of course, since he’d met Lori he really hadn’t thought of Corinne--for pretty much the first time in 15 years. He’d had no intention of trying to romance her, or that’s what he’d been telling himself.  He just wanted to see her, talk to her; be near her. If he ended his friendship with Lori, how would he keep away the Corinne-pain? Never mind about that, he said to himself sternly, this insane thing with Lori stops now before it goes any further.

Suddenly he realized he'd received a text. It was from Lori, “Nite-nite, Bry-man”. He smiled without thinking, then came to his senses and sighed. Whispering a quiet but heart-felt epithet he spoke into the darkness, “This is not going to be easy..."

Next installment of Brian Ottomas HERE


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Lassiters Ch. 6 The Twins Are Growing Up Pt. 5

It was midnight that same night, and Trey was getting ready to do some cruising of his own. Lori had no idea he was gone, because his bedroom door was shut with the lights out when she came upstairs. That was because at the moment she came in the front door, he’d been silently waiting in the darkened dining room for Gareth to pick him up. Lori had walked right by the dining room door but had never seen him. Gareth arrived in his beat up car which seemed incredibly noisy to Trey at the moment. Managing to get out the door without getting caught, Trey was immensely relieved when they were finally on their way out of town.

It was really a little late to get started, most of the drive-in’s closed by 1 or 2 am. So they knew they might not see many of their friends, but Trey was feeling rebellious and it gave him some sort of release to thumb his nose at his parents for the moment. 

“What’ll we do after 2?” Trey asked.

“Search me,” Gareth replied, then winked, “But I do happen to know that Lisa Lothario is having a party at her house right now; and you know her Dad lets her do anything she wants so it should be pretty wild. I doubt it will end well—or end early, my man.”

This was music to Trey’s ears, "Let's go have some fun."

“You know, I’ll be 17 in two weeks,” he said, “I ought to be able to do whatever I want, by now, you'd think."

Gareth just laughed at that, “Get real, dude. The parents hold all the power. That’s just the way it is. You need to get your grades back up, man, get through high school and we will be so on our way to college! And then, look out! There will be no stopping us, then, Trey!” he slowed the car and peered ahead, ah, there was the road. As soon as they turned onto it they could see where the party was.

“Man, look at all those beautiful lights---the party is definitely still going ON.” 

Teens they didn't even know were coming in and going out the front door, talking in scattered groups on the lawn and next to cars. Even from here they could see in the windows of the house, where there seemed to be even more kids and general carousing. They looked at each other and chanted in unison,

"Par-tay! Par-tay! Par-tay!” 

Cars were deposited willy-nilly all over the front yard, so Gareth pulled up near a clump of rhododendrons and parked there. Looked to him to be as good a place as any. They headed into the house where music was blasting out of the windows at a deafening level. There seemed to be no adults in sight. Par-tay!


This particular social function was destined to hit a snag eventually. Around 4 am a neighbor finally called the police because of the noise and the celebration was over. Lisa’s dad didn’t even care, he stood around joking with the cops. Anyway, luck was with Trey because he actually managed to sneak back in the house at 4:30 without getting caught. He couldn’t believe he made it. This was the first time he’d ever tried. He had no idea how Gareth managed to come and go at his own house all the time and his Mom never knew. And Aunt Glenn had been a detective. Go figure.

Feeling guilty about last night, Saturday morning Lori got up early and made breakfast for everyone. She was in a good mood and wouldn’t let her mother even clear the table after the meal.

Trey ate his cheese omelet quickly and quietly. This was not the time to call attention to himself. He was wearing the clothes he’d worn last night. He’d slept in them and they were a wrinkled mess. He was thanking his lucky stars his mother had not noticed. It was not unusual for Trey to go out on a Friday or Saturday night and flop in his bed fully clothed, much to his mother’s aggravation. The point was he was supposed to have been in the house all night and as far as they knew he’d been in bed before midnight. He’d gone downstairs in his pajamas at one point in the evening claiming he needed a snack. His parents had been watching TV in the living room. He’d done that purposely, so they would be sure he was going to bed. Now he cast nervous glances at his mother, especially, waiting for her to ask him why he was wearing the same clothes, but she never said a thing. The minute he was done eating, Trey hurried to shower and change into jeans and a t-shirt. He went down to watch some TV, but he was so tired from no sleep by that time that he crashed on the sofa before noon.

Lori was over at Melanie’s by 1 pm. They played pool, but she’d suddenly get a faraway look because she was thinking about Brian. Melanie could tell that’s what was happening, but she didn’t say anything. 

Lori got a text from Brian while she was there. Just chit chat, but he said he wanted her to know he was thinking about her. She told Melanie and they grabbed each other in glee and danced around a bit, giggling. Even though Melanie didn’t think she could ever be attracted to a man that age; it was dramatic and a little scary, and they didn’t get that much excitement in their lives as a rule.

Saturday night Melora said she could go out again—yes!

So she went to Galaxy Arcade in Bluewater Village hoping to bump into some friends. Melanie was over at her sister Yvette’s for the night. Holly was going to the movies with Colby Trimble, and Elle had started a part-time job and had to work. If she could she might meet Lori there after 10. Trey was still grounded so he grudgingly let her borrow his car.

Youth is fickle. While she was there Harvey Ferguson, Holly’s twin brother, showed up. They danced and then ended up talking for some time and Lori, feeling the coquette because of her “secret love”, flirted with him in a way that she never had before. In fact, Harvey was surprised to notice his sister’s childhood friend had grown to be such an attractive girl. He’d seen her often throughout his childhood when she was running around the house with Holly. Evidently, he decided, he hadn’t paid much attention the last couple of years. Frequently he'd had his own friends over when Lori was with his sister. Now he took a closer look. You know, she was really kind of pretty and she was talking with him in a quite flattering way. He leaned over at some point and kissed her. Lori was ecstatic (and grateful) to have finally received her very first kiss from a boy. He followed with a few more kisses when Lori got in the front seat of his car. Lori had not one thought of Brian at this point in time. Not one.

Harvey was sweet, she contemplated the next day, of course he was immature compared to Brian. Harvey had pretty eyes, though, as pretty as Brian's. Melanie always said "bedroom eyes" when she talked about a boy with nice eyes. That usually made Lori giggle, but she didn't feel like giggling now. She thought Harvey might be considered a good kisser, too, although she had really had no way of knowing for sure since she’d only kissed one boy. She daydreamed, trying out titles...Harvey's girl, Mrs. Harvey Ferguson, Lori Ferguson. Oh, that's ridiculous she chided herself, all he did was kiss you a few times. It was true, she’d had a crush on him since they were small, but it had been unrequited; he’d never paid any particular attention to her before tonight. Of course...she wouldn’t have to lie to her parents to see Harvey or talk about him. Then she saw that she’d received a text from Brian, and poor Harvey went slap out of her head.

“How R U, princess?”

How could she have forgotten about Brian, even for
few hours? Her thumbs flew as she texted a reply.

Next installment of the Lassiter Family HERE

For Brian's Story go HERE

The Lassiters Ch. 6 The Twins Are Growing Up Pt. 4

Weaving a tangled web…

Lori had scarcely been able to believe it when she got a call on her cell from Brian, asking her to come to their house a week from Friday for dinner. They’d talked for a while about a lot of things, mostly things they had in common like music they liked, TV shows and movies they thought were funny, their favorite places, favorite foods. She couldn't wait until she had the chance to call Melanie afterward. He'd asked for her cell phone number way back when she met him at My Muse, and she'd gladly given it and asked for his, but she hadn't heard anything from him until this call.

“Oh yeah? So did he say anything like, ‘Hey, kid, what were you and your weird friend doing in front of my house the other night?’” Melanie cracked.

They giggled because they had gone back to his house on another night to see if they could get a glimpse of him. They could hear the baseball game through the window and it was pretty obvious that was what had his attention. The girls had hoped he’d get thirsty and walk across the room to get a drink or something to eat at least, but nothing doing.  She’d even brought Errol’s binoculars with her, too.

“All I can say is he must have a cooler full of drinks and a pizza right in front of him!” Melanie had snickered at the time, “Well, I’m not waiting until the game is over. I’m starving. Pizza Bungalow, here we come!”

The fact that Brian had called her at all was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to Lori. So far, anyway. His voice was even better than she’d remembered. In the back of her mind she wondered why he was interested in a 16 year old, but it was just too exciting, she wouldn’t let herself ponder that for more than a second. 

She did feel guilty for deceiving her parents; she’d never done that before. But she would have to come up with a lie to get out of the house for the evening. She’d called Melanie to tell her and to ask her to join in the conspiracy. Though Melanie thought Lori was crazy to like “an old fogey” as she put it, she agreed to help. They’d had plans to meet Holly and Elle at the Arcade, grab something to eat somewhere around there, then they were maybe going to cruise around in Bluewater Village. Lori hated to drag Holly and Elle in on her lie, but when she texted them they agreed they would carry her secret to the grave. They came over to the house the next night  to map out their plan up in Lori’s bedroom. She had many friends, but these three were her closest and best friends. 

Melanie Flynn, of course—they’d lived next door to each other since they were born.They knew all of each other's secrets.

Lori met Holly Ferguson and Elle Broke when Melanie and she began dance lessons at the age of four. 

Through Brownies and Girl Scouts, through piano lessons and dance class, not to mention elementary, middle school and now high, they’d been the “fantastic foursome”. Sometimes they quarreled among themselves, but they always made up and they were loyal to each other when any of them had problems. Such as hiding certain activities from their parents in the name of “true love”, which was how Lori was thinking of Brian by now.

Sometime in the afternoon, Lori went downstairs to figure out how to feed everyone--they all were broke this Friday night. So the girls amused themselves in various ways as well as joking around with Trey.

Lori was actually thinking of asking her mother to cook something. Ordinarily Melora would have done that gladly. However; she was working on her recipe blog refining a recipe she had made earlier, and no one liked to interrupt her when she was doing that. "Woe be unto him..." her father liked to say if he saw one of the kids tiptoeing over to Melora at a time like that. So Lori decided she would make spaghetti and meatballs; she'd done that before. She cooked up a big batch, too. Twice. She burned it the first time.

The four girls and Trey sat down to a delicious meal by evening.

The next week time seemed to drag by to Lori, but finally it was the much-anticipated "Fabulous Friday" as Melanie had dubbed it. Lori had managed to get her parents to loan her their car, and she was gone before 5. They didn’t have a problem with her using their car usually, but they didn’t know about the cruising that would go on afterward, or so Lori thought.

“Be home by 1:00, little girl—even though Sam’s stays open on Friday until 2,” John said as she was leaving. He was referring to Sam’s Snappy Service, the old-fashioned drive-in restaurant on the highway between Pleasantview and Bluewater Village. All the kids met either there or at Sonic Drive-in on the far side of Bluewater, so the teens and early 20's too, cruised the highway between the two restaurants all evening (and into the morning) on Fridays and Saturdays. Lori opened her mouth to protest but then thought, bad enough I’m lying about where I’m going, no sense in adding to it by saying we won't go cruising, too. For a moment she was overwhelmed with shame. She had always been a very honest child. But the excitement of her fantasy romance carried her away as soon as she walked out the door.

Melora and John enjoyed having the place mostly to themselves and played SSX3 for quite a while. Then wanted to try out their brand new sauna, which was in a little wood frame building in the backyard. Since Lori was gone and Trey was up in his room, they had decided to enjoy the privacy of the sauna for more than health reasons.  

Unfortunately, hardwood benches and steam so thick they couldn’t see each other made it the most uncomfortable and least romantic experience they’d had in some time. So much for that idea. But at least they could have saunas now without going to a salon somewhere.

Trey was home and upstairs playing his new hand-held game Le Tournament Decahedron XS instead of out with his friends because he was grounded for the weekend. He’d come home from school and his grades were slipping for the first time in his life. That wasn’t why he was grounded though. John had discussed his grades with him and wanted to know if there was any problem they could help him with, stressing that next year Trey would be a senior and if he still planned to go to U after that, he’d have to get his grades back up to where they were. John had just wanted to talk to him about it; to find out if Trey needed a tutor or any other kind of help. Trey became defensive and then insolent, however; so John took his keys and said,

“Okay, kid, you’re home for this weekend.”
When Trey started to grumble that it was his car, he’d fixed it up, John just said, “You want to make it next weekend too? “

Trey shook his head, frowning.

“I’m the one paying the insurance, and I’m the one who bought the car for you to restore, so knock it off.”

Trey had stomped up to his room but he had shut up. He spent most of the evening playing the new game and messing on the computer. He made a couple calls to friends, too.

Meanwhile, the plan was for Lori to go directly from home to Brian’s house—she was to be sure to let him know that her friends were expecting to meet her afterward—Melanie had insisted she do this for safety’s sake. Afterward she really would meet the girls at Galaxy Arcade and they’d still go cruising in Melanie’s car.

“Now listen to me, Lori, you’d better be here by 10 or we’re coming to get you,” Melanie warned Lori.

Brian was waiting for her outside the house. He smiled and hugged her. Lori was a little nervous when she went in the house. His sister, Bridget, came out from the kitchen smiling, but then she appeared startled. Lori thought, 'Oh, no, he didn’t tell her I was coming!' It was just a split second though and Bridget came forward and greeted her in a friendly way. A mouth-watering  aroma permeated the house; blackened catfish, one of her favorites. It wasn’t as good as her mother’s, but still it was delicious.

During the meal Brian was quiet, but Bridget asked a lot of questions. She told Lori that she and Brian went to school with her older sister and brother. Lori thought about that; then they must be close to David's age; or even Grace. Grace was 32 now. She automatically answered the questions Bridget asked about Grace and David.  She knew Brian was probably around 30, but evidently he was even older, like Melanie had guessed. But then she looked over at Brian and he had this crooked smile that was so cute. Lori decided once more that age could not matter if two people were soul-mates.

After dinner Lori helped clear the table but then Bridget smiled and told her that was okay, she'd finish the cleanup; Lori could go out and visit with Brian.

Brian asked her if she knew how to play chess and she shook her head feeling dumb. 

"Well, would you like to learn? I'd be glad to teach you. " 

So they did that for a while until Brian could see she was starting to feel a little brain weary.

"That's enough for now," he told her. 

Bridget was playing SSX3 and grinned, "Come on over here and play with me, Lori, it'll rest your head compared to chess." 

So they played while Brian watched and cheered Lori on. She was pretty good at SSX3 but Bridget beat her. She could feel Brian hovering behind them and it gave her a tingly feeling.                                         

Finally, Lori had to leave to go to the Arcade; she didn’t want Melanie to show up all protective and breathing fire like an avenging angel.

Unhappily, Brian hadn’t said anything at all to indicate his heart belonged to Lori. She reasoned that was because his sister was right there. But when she was leaving, he was joking around with her and suddenly asked if she was ticklish. She shrieked with laughter and ducked as he tried to tickle her. He stopped and grinned, saying,

“I guess you’re going to meet your boyfriend, now”.

“I don’t have a boyfriend”, Lori blushed but was eager to relay this information.

“Really? I thought I heard you were going steady with Mike Lomax,” he said in a lazy voice as his blue-gray eyes gazed into hers, making her heart seem to literally flutter.

"Oh, no, we’re just good friends!”  Lori's mind raced furiously:

Huh? Where had he heard that about Mike? It wasn’t true, of course, but did that mean he’d been asking about her?  Who would know about her, anyway? She was hardly the talk of the town. The realization that he was trying to find out about her encouraged rather  than frightened her. When he hugged her this time, she let herself hold on to him for just a second more.  Then she backed away quickly. She didn’t want him to think she was clingy or anything.

She got to the Arcade by 9:30 and told the girls everything that had occurred as they drove to Bluewater Village. Melanie had plenty to say, but Lori was too dreamy-eyed to listen. She was home before midnight, still she felt none too virtuous. Her parents were asleep so she crept silently up the stairs to her room. What a night...