"The family

Hate and other things

Chapter 3- Prickly

I really wanted to skip to the next day on Chris's tiny calendar.

The word of the day was perspicacity.

Perspicacity: Clearness of understanding or insight; penetration, discernment.

I had never hated a word so much. I wanted to tear it out and go look at the word of tomorrow. But even though it was already 10 o'clock at night, Chris absolutely hated when you tore it off before the day was over. It bugged him, like it bugged me when I got one of these types of calendars and I had to wait everyday to find out the next word or joke. I wasn't obsessed with corny jokes or long pretentious words… I just liked to know. But I did not need to know this stupid annoying word that was most definitely inspired by the world to mock me.

It couldn't really hurt to just rip off the stupid thing. I'm sure Chris had already memorized it and used it in a sentence. I'm sure Aiden had already seen it when he walked in, scribbled music lyrics on the page and flipped it in the corner where I had found it. And I had bought him the damn things. I had buying them for him as a Christmas present since ninth grade. Not the only present of course, god how cheap would that be.

But Chris was in one of his moods, and disrupting any part of his orderly room in his orderly life would not be good. Perhaps I am prone to exaggeration but it was quite possibly a catastrophic thing to do.

And it may be the most teenager thing I've ever said, but Chris's mood today had everything to do with his parents and little to do with the undefeated ducks hockey team. No I'm not kidding, their name is actually the ducks, like that horrible movie with pre Dawson's creek and pre puberty Joshua Jackson.

When we're young we believe in a lot of things. One of the most important things we believe is our parents are absolutely godlike. They tell us what to wear, if we can have a cookie after dinner, what god we believe in; and what time we wake up for said god on the weekends. And we do it without question. They inform us and shape our minds, they keep us safe and most importantly, they give us a jumping off point to our own self-discovery.

But it's only natural that eventually you realize a hard truth, parents, while many are good are far from perfect. In fact, in many ways, they are simply a grown up version of each child. This moment of understanding is key. They are few sixteen year olds who still believe in Santa, few adults who haven't realized they're parents weren't wrestling that late night they tried to suppress, and there are few people who walk around thinking their parents are always absolutely right.

It took me a while to stop believing in things. It takes me a while to stop believing in things. I was 10 when I figured out why Santa and my father had the same taste in cookies and an allergy to milk. It's not that I'm stupid; I just don't question things once I believe in them, and perhaps I am a little naïve. But it's nice to believe in things. I still believe in magic. Not broomsticks and invisibility cloaks, just the possibility of something more. For some reason though, I stopped believe in my parent's perfection at an early age.

It was my seventh birthday when I realized, the same birthday Sarah threw a cupcake at me and Scarlett and Casey lip-synched to Abba while wearing my mother's high heels. It was a pool party, and sometime in the day I ran in dripping water on the expensive wood floors we had just refurnished. I was in search of the pretty jeweled tiara Audrey had given me. My parents were arguing in the kitchen over the silliest thing. My mother was mad that my dad had bought me a set of Barbie's. Mom never did believe in Barbie's, she wanted her daughters to be confident, intelligent, beautiful, altogether fabulous. And no plastic doll with incorrect anatomy would be affecting her babies' psyches. My father sighed, told her she was being ridiculous, and said I had wanted them. I had asked for them, Day's of Our Lives, teddy bear style was getting old. This however, was not the right thing to say. She burst out in French dialogue that despite the pretty language did not sound happy. My dad only laughed as she finished and handed her a piece of cake. She smiled and in that instant I knew. I don't why I knew then, what about this tiny moment lead me to figuring out my parents weren't Hera and Zuez. I just knew, as simply as I know now that tiger lilies top roses any day, and indie rock was by far the most superior music genre ever. If I had to guess as to why my little 7 year old brain figured it out though, I would say it was in the way my father handed her a piece of cake. It was her favorite type with cherries that she loved on it, and he handed it to her so carelessly as if he already knew what would happen, and my mother just smiled like a minute ago she hadn't had all this passion inside of her, and it was just gone, and I just knew. Still I remember I smiled as I grabbed the tiara from a pile of presents and ran out.

It was now that I knew Chris had never had that moment as I had. Perhaps his father needed to buy him plastic woman.

"Chris man stop, I'm getting exhausted just looking at you."

Chris was pacing back and forth in his too tiny room. Every time he reached the side where his night stand was, he would pick up a picture of his deceased grandmother, and take it over with him to other side of his room. He would then gently place it on his desk, and two minutes later repeat the action. If there were any dust in Chris' s room it would have definitely been uprooted in his agitated gait. Much as I hated to agree with the speaker, he did have a point. My eyes swam and a light throb found it's way to my temples as I tried to follow his movements,.

He stopped and looked abashed. The picture of his sweet grandmother ended up on his desk. That would bother him later. For some reason his abrupt inaction made Aiden and me both take action. I sprang up from the pile of pillows I was sitting on, and Aiden who had been lazily lounging on Chris's pillowless bed slowly got off it. And then we stood surrounding him in a room that was smaller than some cells, his claustrophobia forgotten by us for the moment.

He raked his hand through his brown crew cut and sighed. He also edged away from us. "You're right. I have to relax. This is not a big deal." But his eyes said it was the biggest deal ever.

"It's really not." My gut reaction was to say Aiden was being condescending but his voice was warm and comforting. I felt awkward just waiting for Chris to do something. In my overactive mind I compared it to people watching a jumper, not sure what the outcome would be and what he would do, but fascinated and worried all at once. Of course I was insane. But if I voiced my imagination it would probably make Chris feel better in an odd way. We share a flair for the dramatic and neurotic, I'm sure he would like to be reminded of that.

This was all so ridiculous. So Chris lost a hockey game he would say failed a hockey game, it was not the end of the world. It should not require a mild freak out and a need of his two best friends to calm him down. It was as silly as oh being skipped by your family at dinner and having a small inward crisis. Yes Chris and I were definitely kindred spirits.

Yet I still didn't know what to say to comfort him. I love words, I love how powerful they are and all the emotions they could carry. But it wasn't a love I got to experience because I could never say what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it. It always came out wrong. Aiden, who couldn't possibly understand what Chris was going through and in fact spent a lot of time with me on the slacker bench in gym, seemed to know just what to say.

"There will be other games Connors, you're on practically every sports team our school offers. Except for like wrestling, but you're not Sammy's cousin."

"Hey!"

"That was funny, and you know it."

It was, especially considering a more homoerotic sport had never existed, but it was still a prick thing to say. More than that actually but cursing can be so ugly. I know I look ridiculous when I'm angry or at least when I'm angry over stupid things, I'm told I pout and my face turns red. Which isn't surprising because it usually does so when I …breathe. I don't know if it was my look or Aiden's words, possibly a combination of both, but Chris laughed and his should relaxed slightly. It made me feel slightly mollified that Aiden was crass and well Aiden.

But then he ordered that his pillows go back in their place and I knew that we had lost him again. Aiden rolled his eyes and went on Chris's new macbook, a present from his father that would surely be taken away now. I shot him a glare and I realized that it was my turn. Ok, sure, Aiden had been a dutiful best friend two hours longer than I had, because I had family obligations and Aiden had nothing. And yeah he had probably stopped Chris from doing something drastic, like drinking caffinated beverages, which he so did not need right now. But still, I sucked at this!

"Look, Chris," I motioned for him to sit on his bed and followed, biting my lip in thought. I was so nervous, I wasn't the worst person at comforting but I tended to screw it up on my first try and then succeed. I'd really like to just succeed but I'm not one to complain about my flaws, "Maybe…this is a good thing." Chris opened his mouth so wide, I was strongly reminded of the time Scarlett downloaded porn onto my computer as a joke. I could hear Aiden's headshake at what he presumed was my stupidity, but I would not be deterred.

"Listen to me before you hate me, yes it sucks that you lost the hockey game, by a lot, and there were scouts there, by some miracle because why in god's name would a scout come to any sport at all related or associated with our school. Even near our school in distance…I mean really! …. But yeah that all sucks and it's all noted and I am so sorry. But they'll probably come again, For softball! The school's softball team is actually good; you don't have to do all the work on that team! I mean of course, you're still the best on the team. And I guess it wouldn't be the same scouts because that doesn't even make sense, but do you really want to go to like Poland or something for hockey? You have seasonal affective disorder! "

There was silence, a thick silence that was filled with enough energy you wouldn't be able to hear the proverbial pin drop.

I wanted to stop my prattling but I also wanted to stop that dejected look on one of my best friends since the seventh grade's face. So I continued and it was like I didn't have control over my mouth. I'm not sure I have control over anything.

"You did really good tonight too Chris. You scored 5 goals! It's not you're fault that your defense really sucked and let past 8. So what if your team lost, you did great, maybe the scoters will just see that!"

I realized, as my words died that I had flip-flopped several times through my crazy un peppy speech. And I didn't even think Chris should pursue sports but science like he wanted. But then we came back to the whole family issue again.

Aiden turned away from his instant message to look at me. His expression was unreadable and I felt uncomfortable under his scrutiny. I glared to stop it.

"Are you insane? Do you ever get sick of the sound your own voice."

I huffed. At least I was trying. And I happen to find my voice quite melodious, thank you.

"No, it's ok Sams, "Chris gave me a quick brotherly hug and somehow my rambling must have helped a little if he could focus on other people, " that was… comforting."

"Yeah like being eaten by jackals is fun." Aiden sneered his voice rough and I think he was actually angry at me. He turned back to the computer but kept his attention on his best friend, "As crazy as Sammy is, she may have a point. Just because your parents put shins guards on you when you were three doesn't mean anything. "

Aiden had managed to say what I had wanted to say, only using a lot less words and actually getting to his point. It was a trait I had to admire despite my dislike, he could be an ass but at least he could get out his words out with out any misunderstanding. I always meant when I said but I just didn't know how say it. The funny thing was, I doubted Aiden meant half of what he said. Well it didn't matter as long as one of us could tell Chris what he needed to hear.

And I hated being called Sammy so much.

He definitely didn't want to hear this though. Chris just flopped harder into his bed and twisted under the covers. As if he wanted to go and hide in his happy place. I knew this happy place involved his girlfriend, a clean room, and a good sports game or a book depending on what was being forced on him in the moment. My happy place involved watching The Wizard Of Oz with Audrey as she pretended to be Dorothy and I the wicked witch. I always wanted to be Dorothy though, because hello, cute little ruby red slippers. It also involved massive amounts of fat free chocolate that tasted good. And that's when it lost touch with reality.

I wondered what Aiden's happy place was. It probably didn't have his best friends girlfriend in it. It probably involved some random skank and a rock concert. Then again, I doubted Aiden needed one; happy places were usually reserved for the neurotic at heart. Like Disney was for the young.

Chris was back on his parents. His shoulders were tight and his face was a grimace and he really needed to have that moment.

"They're going to kill me. They're in the living room, plotting my death as we speak." Chris cried out rather pathetically and I struggled not to laugh and scowl all at once. Aiden hid his smile at the screen. He also hid an angry knot in his brows that I could only see from a side view. It seems I wasn't alone on my views of Mr. and Mrs. Connors.

I could never tell Chris this, but I absolutely hated his parents. The Connors, Franc and Jo (due to their androgynous names, I never could figure out which was which and ended up not addressing them) reminded me of the stage parents you see on True Hollywood Story. I was half convinced that if Chris had been a girl they would be just as into beauty pageants now, and telling everyone they know that a beauty pageant is where they met. Instead of the story they tell now, which was they were both avid sports fans they're entire life and had met at a baseball game while cheering for opposing teams. Chris had just had his sports obsession passed on as a trait from his loving parents, nothing else. Aiden hadn't been exaggerating though, he rarely did, Chris had been forced and whether he liked sports or not, he had no choice in the matter. Chris had a serious case of stolkhome syndrome with his parents and they could never not be looking out for his best interests. He was stuck, if he didn't realize who his parents truly were, he was always going to be that little kid I meet in the seventh grade, who had little to no friends because his parents told him he didn't have time for any. He might as well still believe in Santa Claus, that could only embarrass him or maybe preserve his virginity for a long time, taking every word his parents said to heart could only lead to disaster.

Aiden hadn't known the lonely 12 year old I knew, but he had been cancelled on by Chris a lot of times because he had to stop fooling around and focus. Focus! Chris had even missed some of the rare times Aiden's band had scored a gig. And Aiden had always been around when Chris failed. Those times were the worse. So I wasn't surprised that Aiden wasn't quite as enamored with the Conner's as were some of Chris's lesser friends. The ones who only saw Mr. Connors freely hand out beer and Mrs. Connor denounce her Dominican heritage by making nachos and tacos. Chris's house was the houses where there was always a game on, the place where the party and the noise never stopped. Unless Chris had to practice.

I looked as Chris as he methodically rearranged his pillows and it made me think of Casey. Not the pillows or even the extreme cleanliness because Casey was kind of a slob, but Chris. They both shared their biggest flaw and best trait, they needed to please people, and they would do anything to earn other's praise. Chris was the class clown, the perfect athlete, the stellar student, the person who confided in only a select few because he couldn't let everyone knew he was screwed up. Casey lied to the world and said he was straight. He lied to himself and said he was bisexual. Because that meant he had a choice, he could marry a girl and have lots of beautiful babies like his Aunt Karen wanted. If his parents had wanted an athlete like Chris did, then there was no doubt that his scrawny body would be lifting weights all morning. Despite the fact that their situations were completely different, and they were hardly best friends, both my cousin and Chris were bonded together by their own insecurities.

And it was kind of sad, and it was kind of tragic but there was also something kind of beautiful about that kind of devotion. Because when it came down to it, they just did it to be loved, and even though they shouldn't have to and they were going about it in all the wrong way, it was still amazing to see what people would do for love.

Chris and Aiden were discussing his parents. Chris was still describing all the ways his parents were going to kill him and Aiden's eyes were getting darker by the moment. Maybe it was my imagination, it was probably my imagination, but they looked almost black, so different from they dark gray they usually were.

"They'll live." He clipped and his voice had an edge to it that Chris didn't hear. Of course he didn't. Still I tried to look sympathetic at Aiden's harsh words. Not too much though, too much and I would look like I was pitying him. It was a fine line.

There was a knock at the door and Mrs. Connors entered. Aiden quickly exed out of his band's offensive myspace, and I jumped as far away from both boys as soon as I heard the knob twist without Chris's acknowledgement. Nothing looked innocent when you were a teenager. Of course I had heard Mr. Connors tell Chris once and I quote, "That he could fuck all the girls he wanted as long as they didn't distract him and he always wore a condom. A pregnant girl was a messy business." So I doubt that Mrs. Connors would have dropped to her knees and start praying as my aunt Karen would do, or get her gynecologist on the phone and put me on the pill as my mother would do, but It's better that I stay as far away as the tiny room would allow.

Besides there were two boys and one me! And ugh. Mrs. Connors was a known gossip, even if it involved her own son; I'm sure the whole world would know by tomorrow. My reputation was already tarnished from when Aiden accidentally locked me in a room with the entire horny and disgusting golf team. Why they were in a room after school instead of being oh outside, I don't even know. Seriously the golf team, how hard up was I that people believed that god-awful rumor, spread by the team itself but fueled by Chase. This was a tiny town; people will believe anything as long as it's interesting. Like in ninth grade, when I was a Satanist. Or later in ninth grade when Aiden was gay for a short time. Sometimes I think we're still the same kids we were in the seventh grade only with sex and more booze. And we're a lot less bitchy to each other. Middle school kids are freaking mean.

"Chris sweetheart, we need to speak to you." Franc or Jo's voice sounded regretful, disappointed, and hidden Dominican all at once. Her husband hated the accent like he hated everything that wasn't American. I couldn't feel bad for her though, she was definitely the good cop in this scenario, or someone who leads a person to their execution but doesn't actually swing the guillotine. I felt exactly like a cat must when it raises its hair up and hisses.

Chris shot us a bleak look and the walk to leave his room had never been so long. Consequences be damned I reached out and gave Chris's shoulder a gentle squeeze, Aiden sighed in that whole misery loves company thing. No doubt, Audrey would somehow hear that I was trying to steal her man but I didn't let it bother me.

Suddenly I felt exhausted and achy and just generally drained. I had been standing since Chris left and it had been much too long on my feet, especially in my tight and pricey shoes. Nothing at the moment looked better than Chris's extra comfy bed. Of course while I was thinking about this, Aiden had already stolen my coveted spot. His legs slammed into the wall as he lay down backwards and it only struck me then how much taller Aiden was then Chris. I debated trying to get him off the bed but I knew it would only lead to a sexual innuendo.

I sat down on the computer chair and I sat down loudly. He looked at me and grinned, a knowing grin that made me wish he were ugly. Possibly scarred.

"Problem Sammy?" His voice was low, relaxed, some would say Zen. I was never any of these things and maybe that was one of the reasons we couldn't be friends. Or it could be that he was an ass.

"Nope." And then there was silence, delicious silence because we both knew it would soon be filled with something much worse. And I usually hated silence. I felt as if this should have been awkward. I had nothing to say to Aiden and unless he was bothering me or complaining about me, I assume the same. We didn't like each other and we didn't really know each other and yet I felt …fine.

I think it an unbelievable way, hating him freed me. We weren't strangers but we didn't like each other, so we were freed from the uncomfortable ice breaking of new people and we didn't care about one another so there were was no way we had to act. To have an idea of who a person is or how they should be, you had to have some sort of intimacy or it else it wouldn't matter to you. It's not about whether I'm always true to myself, which I think I am, but whether you do or you don't, there will always be expectations. Right now in this moment it didn't matter though, I was free right now, as opposed to the 99 percent free I usually was. And so there was no awkwardness.

Then the yelling started. Aiden promptly rolled on his back and jammed ipod headphones in his ear. The fight was a stabbing pulsating sensation throughout the room. The voices grew louder and I didn't want to hear the anger and disappointment and failure of parenting, so as cowardly as it was I didn't.

I sat there and I tried to block it out. I pictured my happy place. I tried to think of the last book or show I could remember and replay it in my head. I tried to think of hot guys and cute animals and shoes and pretty things, anything that made me happy. I wished that I hadn't left my ipod at home and that Chris would have an interest in music besides when he worked out.

I had never been yelled at before in my life. My father didn't hand out the punishments and my mother never lost her cool, she was an ice goddess. I had yelled myself of course, many times, but there something so different about hearing it. It was jarring, it was painful and it made me want to run away.

"Hey, come here."

I was surprised I could hear his voice in all the chaos and all my attempts at distraction. It cut clear across it though and I followed it without thinking slowly edging my chair over to him. I realized I was trembling slightly and I should be embarrassed or at least my usual red, but I wasn't, I was in fact deathly pale.

He handed me an earpiece wordlessly. His eyes were still closed and he looked serene, almost innocent. I smirked at that thought and eagerly jammed the music into my ear. Like a man dying of thirst when he finally finds water. Aiden was my cactus.

It was surreal. Not only was I willingly sitting inches from Aiden Chase listening to music as absolute destruction and that was the only word I could use to describe it, whirled around us, but I was half in both worlds. Half of me was being slowly lulled by the sultry tones of The Mars Volta, half of me was still left behind.

Perhaps I was too demanding but I needed more. I needed complete escape, not a little bit. God I sounded like a future drug attack. I didn't know how Aiden could look serene with only half of the horribleness blocked out, but I couldn't.

So I ended up looking at Aiden. There wasn't much else in Chris's room to distract myself with, he liked it neat and empty, and as much as I will never admit it aloud, nothing was half as fascinating. He had freckles on his hands that I had never noticed before, he was wearing the clichéd rocker shirt of the stones and his eyelashes were thick, almost girlish and it made me giggle inwardly. Aiden would hate that I had compared anything about him as girlish. He certainly wouldn't smirk right back at me as he was doing now, when his long girlish eyelashes separated and his eyes opened.

Fuck,

"Watcha doing Sammy?" His voice was teasing and he elongated every word. How he could do that in this mood I didn't know and part of me hated him even more for it. Not because I admired it but because I couldn't fathom it. Now that I was not focusing on something I could hear the screaming again and my left ear hurt. I felt a twisting in my stomach and I had to do something. So I asked Aiden a question, a real question.

I'm not even sure where it came from but as soon as I asked it, I knew it was the right one.

"What do you think of change?" I whispered change and it echoed across the room. His face was bemused and he took too long to answer, and when he finally did answer (it felt like an eternity) he seemed to choose his words carefully.

"I don't know. Change is something new. It's an experience. It's never boring.."

And yet they sounded so careless. But sure. I had to admit that.

I held onto my intensity because I might not always be sure of who I was, but I was always sure of my feelings, and I answered his answer with my own belief.

"Change is prickly." I didn't say I thought, because I knew, it might not be Aiden's truth but it's mine. He laughed actually laughed and it sounded out of place because the Connors were still screaming at their only son, and yet it sounded comforting as well.

"Prickly?"

"Yes. I mean it's good for you and once you're though you're probably going to be happier but the act itself is prickly. Uncomfortable. Maybe even painful for some people. It's kind of like the post break up talk, that's what change is."

My words reminded me of something else, but that was a dangerous thought, especially here, especially around Aiden.

"Prickly." He repeated and laughed softer this time, reaching over and grabbing the rainbow heart shaped necklace I was wearing.

"Gay pride Sammy?"

"You know it Chase."

Eventually the fighting stopped and Chris came back in, with a grin on his face and mild amnesia as to what had just happened. Eventually Chris's father came in, demanded Chris not be all tense and jittery and like himself for tomorrow, as he had to start practicing for baseball. Then he tossed us some beers and told him if he still couldn't relax he had other things. Eventually we popped in a couple of action movies that contained a lot of fake looking naked women with heaving breasts and car chases. Eventually Chris's smile became genuine and so did mine.

Later on he let me rip off the day on his calendar. I eagerly did so, I couldn't explain the rush I got out of detaching that damnable word from the calendar. Until I looked at the word again.

Perspicacity: Clearness of understanding or insight; penetration, discernment.

And it reminded me of this morning when out to starbucks with my cousin I told him he was not at all interested in the coffee girl he was miserably failing to flirt with. And that he should just be honest to himself and admit he was gay. Casey told me that I was wrong, because he didn't even really know himself and maybe he was being honest to himself and maybe I should just shut up because he doubted I knew myself either.

He was right. He was really, really right.