September 20, 2005

My alarm goes off at ten to six every morning.

Last night was another one of those nights. I removed my arm from under Laurie's head and pulled clothes from random drawers. (I'm one of those people whose room looks like something blew up in it, but I know exactly where everything is as well as what's clean and what isn't. Then you have Laurie's room, where there's nothing on the floor and you can see your fucking reflection in the fucking dresser, but that's beside the point.) I turned on the light; Laurie mewled and buried her head under the pillow.

"It's not morning yet," she whined.

"The position of the sun, as well as virtually ever functional clock in this time zone, would beg to differ. Get dressed."

"Turn the light off."

I flipped the switch off; Laurie groped for her glasses, slid out from under the covers, and staggered to the bathroom. I could hear the running water as she rinsed out her retainers and put them in their case, followed by cabinet doors slamming as she searched for the exact blouse she wanted to wear while simultaneously cramming all her copious amounts of crap into her book bag. She carries more stuff than anyone I know. She can't possibly need it all.

I headed downstairs and started the coffee. I wouldn't make it for mother and dear old Chuck (our stepfather hates it when I call him that), except Laurie likes it and I find it ridiculous to only make enough for a cup and a half. I popped some bread in the toaster and set about scrambling eggs for Laurie and put them in the microwave.

When there was a minute-thirty left on the timer, I called up the stairs: "Laurie? Hello? Breakfast?"

"Coming, coming…" I heard the hissing of her aerosol hairspray (DEAR GOD, the ozone layer) seconds before she bounded down the stairs. When she was still four stairs up, she leaned forward to kiss my forehead. (Yeah. I'm tall. Shut up.)

"Eww, girl germs," I teased.

She stuck her tongue out at me as she dropped her book bag and textbooks near the door (I'm surprised the floorboards haven't cracked by now, I mean really…) and made her way over to the kitchen table. She retrieved her violently pointy cowboy boots from under said table and pulled them on over her jeans and socks.

The timer beeped just as our mother decided to make her appearance. "Good morning, Laura. Andrew. Oh, how nice, you made coffee." Saccharine. Lovely.

I ignored her and handed Laurie her eggs and coffee, then started some tea for myself and grabbed a breakfast bar from the pantry.

"Morning, Mommy." Laurie kissed her on the cheek. She always was the good child. "Thanks for breakfast, Andy."

"I don't see why you children feel the need to use those ridiculous nicknames. They're undignified. I gave you both perfectly good Christian names, and…"

I started to tune her out. I do that a lot, actually.

"…and another thing. You two are far too old to be sleeping in the same bed. It's abnormal and unhealthy. You have separate rooms for a reason, you know."

"Oh, Mom, it's really not a huge deal; it's not like we're screwing or anything…" Laurie trailed off. She's not that strong of an arguer.

"Well, when I was your age, I already had a boyfriend, and-"

I turned. "You know what, Mom? Lay off. Just because you want your children to be perfect and pretty and smart and 'normal' and plastic and whatever the hell else you and your friends were in high school doesn't mean we are! God, why the hell can't you just leave us alone?" I dumped my hot tea into a travel mug and slung my book bag over my shoulder. "I'll be in the car."

A few minutes later, Laurie came out carrying all her stuff, which she crammed into the trunk, then climbed into the passenger seat.

Laurie…. Is the type of person who avoids conflict when possible, especially with our family, although she'll get into a catfight with a prissy, preppy girl before you can say "Don't touch my polo shirt." I, on the other hand, am somewhat quiet at school in classroom settings, but I fight a lot with my mother and quasi-father. Laurie always pretends to be engrossed in whatever she's doing and hopes she doesn't get brought into it.

The only times Laurie will get into a fight with anyone over anything are if someone is being violently homophobic or if they're directly insulting me. The former is because Laurie's bi. I was the first person she told about it; she's really open about it at school, but no one in our family knows.

The latter is because…well…I guess you could say Laurie and I are closer than most siblings. We've become even more so over the past few years.

Our parents divorced shortly after Laurie was born. We saw our bio dad once a week for eight or nine years after that, until he got real heavy into drugs and sort of dropped out of our lives. December of '99, he showed up drunk at one of Laurie's elementary school chorus concerts. I never saw him after that.

Mother dated off and on after she and our dad split up. My seventh grade year, she started seeing this guy she'd known in high school. They bought a house, we moved, I had to change schools (not that big a deal; I wasn't what you'd call popular) and Laurie began middle school where I spent my final year, at a small magnet school. Mother and Charles got married, but the troubles began about a year and a half in. Mother started spending more time ant work, and they both found more and more reasons not to be home for dinner or on weekends. By the third year (that's last year), they started sleeping in separate bedrooms; now they barely speak. Laurie and I fend for ourselves most of the time, which is fine with us. Even when one or both of them are home, Laur and I tend to hole up in one or the other of our rooms with the door closed (locked if there's a fight going on), which can lead to some snide remarks by our quasi-parentals, depending on the amount of Miller Light and/or $10 Chardonnay consumed.

But back to the present. Laurie looked over at me with that look she has, the one that says "I'm sorry" and "I told you so" and "Thank you" and "I love you" all at the same time. I grinned and shook my head.

"What?" she asked. "You're a pain in the ass, you know that, right?"

"Back atcha." She blew raspberries at me.

"Hey, no spitting at the driver!" I laughed.

"Laurie pushed one of the preset buttons on my radio. The DJ's voice came over the speakers.

"94.7 WQDR, home of today's best and most continuous country! Next up, Garth Brooks with 'Friends in Low Places…'"

"Why the HELL is that on my presets?" Laurie just laughed. "Hell no. Absolutely not." I switched it over to a soft rock station.

Laurie grimaced. "Eww, Andy…"

We pulled up to a stoplight. I dug around underneath my seat until I found my Rent soundtrack. I popped it in. "Better?"

Laurie nodded as she began to sing along with La Vie Boheme. I don't sing. People's ears bleed, including my own.

A few minutes later, we pulled up in front of the school. We gathered our stuff from the trunk and walked toward the building.

"What's after school today?" Laurie has something after school, more often than not, be it Gay/Straight Alliance, Art Club, show choir practice, etc.

"Art club officers' meeting. Third floor."

I nodded. "Meet you up there."

Just before I left to go hang out with my band geek friends and Laurie went to go hang out with her - well, I don't actually know what you'd call her people; I guess "misfits" fits better than anything else - I heard "Hey, Andy?" I turned.

"Te amo." She smiled.

"Te amo tambien. Tiene un dio bueno." I waved over my shoulder as we parted ways.