Friday December 12, 2014
“That’s it! I can’t study! Time for a non-fat quad vanilla latte!” I said it with flair, tossing my book across the room and jumping on my bed, almost hitting my head on the low, angled ceiling. I wasn’t ten anymore and I needed to stop doing that, but who doesn’t like jumping on beds, right?
“Quit being so dramatic, Sarette. It can’t be that difficult.” Mathew grabbed my math book, tossing it to land perfectly in the middle of the desk with a thump. “Yeah, I’m sure you’re never going to finish without a cup of coffee, and you probably need to go get a new candle.” I couldn’t quite hear the rest of whatever he said, but he mumbled something about having a crazy chick for a best friend.
“I just need to get everything in order—and, then I can get focused,” I said.
Mathew stood up, stretching out his six-two frame, purposefully smacking his hands on the low ceiling just to startle me. I jumped, as I always do when he does that. “You know they have medicine you can take for OCD, right?”
“Quit being a dick.” I stood and put my hands on my hips. “I told you I needed coffee hours ago.” I looked at him—beautiful and perfect, with his dark brown hair and aqua blue eyes. He had filled out this summer, too. He had gone away on vacation as a tall, skinny, dorky kid and somehow came back still dorky, but a rather reasonably-built man, or at least well on his way to becoming one. Too bad we’ve known each other since we were in diapers. You can’t have feelings for someone you’ve known that long. It’s kind of creepy, not unlike those people who counted the days until Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez turned eighteen.
“Earth to Sarette.” Mathew was holding my coat in his outstretched hands. “Where’d you go this time?”
“Nowhere. Just remembering when you peed in my bed.” I grabbed my coat from him and ran down the stairs from my attic bedroom.
“I was three, and that was fourteen years ago!” I heard him shout as I went down another flight of stairs and rounded the corner to the kitchen.
My mother was leaning back on our farmhouse sink, holding her iPad. If I had to guess, she was playing Words with Friends. “Hey sweetie, I thought you needed to study.” A giant boom sounded through the house, shaking the doors of the china cabinet. Mom looked up and yelled, “Mathew Michael Conner! You are too big to be jumping down the stairs! You’re gonna break my house!”
With a sheepish grin he rounded the corner into the canary yellow kitchen. “Sorry, Mom.” He leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.
When I say leaned over, I mean it. At barely five feet tall, Mom looks like a little person next to him. I wish I looked like her. Shanna Miller was blessed with black hair, but hers was so black that it didn’t look natural—it looked like something that came from a bottle of dye. Her dark blue eyes always seemed a little sad. I’m not as lucky; I have sandy brown hair, perpetually frizzy and overly thick, and hazel eyes that change color with my mood, or at least it seems that way. I’m not as short as my mom; I’m five-foot-six, but at least I got her curves.
“Need. Coffee. Now,” I spoke my best approximation of a robot with my arms moving mechanically. I’m such a geek.
Mom didn’t need to hear about the candle. She hated all that stuff and absolutely forbade me to play around with “things beyond my understanding”, whatever the hell that means. I hated lying to her, but I tried to rationalize that I wasn’t really lying, I was omitting. Integrity can be a bitch, though. How would I feel if someone intentionally left out critical information when I asked them a question? Yes, omission is lying, but I have a ton of crap to do. I can’t get anything accomplished unless everything is just the way I need it. It just is what it is. Maybe Mathew is right about my having OCD.
With a quick turn to the kitchen island, I grabbed Mathew’s keys off the counter and yelled “Shotgun!”
“You don’t need to call shotgun when it’s only the two of us. Besides, I think you should drive. I’ve got a date later that I have to get ready for.”
Yup, that’s right. It’s Friday and MMC has things to do. His newfound good looks make Friday the day that we don’t hang out anymore. “Are you to the S’s yet? You seem to be working your way through the senior class girls pretty efficiently—so efficiently I might think you have a plan of sorts.”
I stopped talking and took in Mom’s and Mathew’s responses, both of their mouths dropping open at my accusation. “What? Come on. There must be a plan involved. Start with the A’s and work your way to the Z’s. Or, begin with the brunettes over five-foot-five and then on to blonds over five-foot-five. I don’t know how you are deciding who is next, but there is a plan. I just haven’t figured it out yet.” Truth be told, I know I am the only person in the world who could say that to Mathew, and I know I’m pushing it.
“Just because you can’t get a date doesn’t mean I need to be antisocial too.” Now Mathew was pushing it.
“Thanks for keeping it classy.” I shrugged away the hurt, set down his keys, and grabbed mine.
“You two crabby pants need caffeine and it’s on me.” Mom padded over to her imitation Coach purse to fund our caffeine mission. She searched through her wallet, made a slight shrug, grabbed a fifty, and handed it to Mathew. “You can keep the change for your date. And try not to be out too late,” she said with a smile. “Sarette, your curfew is 11 p.m. and please only go to the coffee house,” she said with a don’t-even-think-about-going-anywhere-else look in my direction. “Now, both of you say I’m sorry to each other and get moving. I’m going to take a bath. I’ll probably be asleep when you get back, so goodnight,” she said while heading to her bedroom, probably looking forward to a couple hours by herself. “Oh, and Mathew, please tell your mom to call me tomorrow. Love ya, guys.” As she shut the door, it felt like she was pushing us out of the house. But after seventeen years as a single working mom, she deserved whatever she wanted.
We looked at each other and simultaneously said, “You’re sorry,” then raced toward each other yelling, “Jinx, pinch, poke! You owe me a Coke.” Pinching and poking ensued. I think between Mathew, Mom, Mama, and me, we owe ourselves around forty-eight kabillion or so Cokes, although my math might be off a bit. I looked at Mathew’s stupid “I won” smirk, but I could not stay mad at him. I stuck my tongue out at him instead. We’ve known each other our entire lives and my life story is woven with our shared experiences—good, bad, and indifferent— we share a bond that I suspect even real siblings don’t have together.
Our shared lives started on day one of our existence. Looking into the nursery from the outside, our moms met while in the hospital on December 21, 1998. Both were looking fondly at their newly-born babies lined up next to one another in little Plexiglas cribs—each of us wrapped in hospital-issued blue, white, and red-striped blankets. I guess our moms bonded because they were both alone in the hospital, neither of our fathers stuck around and neither had any other family. They were both twenty-something single parents alone in every way until they found each other. They instantly became best friends.
At the hospital, Mom invited Mama and Mathew to stay with us until they got on their feet. Mom had just inherited a large home from her parents in Adrian, Michigan and there was plenty of room for all of us. We were practically raised as siblings. Early on, we started calling Mathew’s mother “Mama” and my mother “Mom” to distinguish between the two. As luck would have it, the house next door went up for sale right after we were potty trained. Mama and Mathew were able to have their own place while we all still had our family unit. It was a win-win.
“Let’s go! It’s freezing out here.” I reached for the car door handle on the driver side.
“I don’t have to go out tonight.” Mathew folded his hand on top of the hood and looked guilty. “Do you want me to cancel my date? I didn’t know it bothered you so much.”
“Dude, it’s all good. Just a mini pity party for me—I’m over it. I’m just destined to hit refresh on Facebook while bouncing between Words with Friends and Dice with Buddies. Enough of my fabulous Friday night plans—let’s go.” I slinked into the car.
“Are you sure?” Mathew got in and closed the passenger door behind him.
“Yes, I’m fine. You should go get ready for your date. I have to get to the store before they close, so I’m going to head there before I get coffee.”
“I really am sorry . . . I was just trying to be funny with the whole antisocial thing.”
“Ha, ha, ha. Mathew it’s only a joke if the other person laughs . . . I said I was fine. Seriously, dude, I’m just pickier about who I will go out with. That’s why I’m not going out. You, on the other hand, apparently are using a systematic, almost mechanical approach to who you date. Just to be clear, I turned down Shane today for winter formal and I’m—”
“You what? Why did you say no? I don’t get it.” He leaned back against the seat with a look of disbelief.
“I’m not interested in dating the ‘most popular guy in school,’” I said as I used my fingers as quotation marks. “He just wants to see me naked. Like I said, not interested.”
“You’re weird. Are you really stopping to get candles first?” he sighed.
“Is it going to be quick?”
“I’m going to take a long as I need to make it right. Why?”
“Well, I could use coffee but I have some homework to do and I have to get ready. I think I’m going to bail. Is that cool?”
“I’m going home.” Mathew reached for the passenger handle and sprung out of the car. “Love you!”
“Love you, too. Have fun! But, not too much fun. I have no desire to be an aunt yet!
“Bitch!” he exclaimed.
With a giggle and a smile, the fight was over. Mathew ran across the lawn and went into his house as I started the car. Darn it, I should have started it already. The windows were solid ice. I went back into the house to stay warm while the windows defrosted. When I walked into the living room, I noticed the picture of my dad was gone off the mantle. Mom is crying again, I thought and turned around. I went back outside and got in my cold car. It whined loudly in protest as I backed out of the driveway.
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