There are a few things that have to be said about my neighbourhood. The houses are all conservative single-story jobs, the hedges are kept perfectly square and the traffic is non-existent. It used to be a perfect neighbourhood for raising children – until said kids grew up.
Let me tell you, a street where houses are practically on top of each other, all crammed full of teenagers with rampaging hormones and revved-up cars isn't the most peaceful place to live. If it's not the bed next door banging loudly against the wall so that you can practically see the rhythm they've got going, it's the drag racing in the street or the bushes in your backyard that are moving… a lot.
Around here, your parents are forced to either explain where babies come from very early, or they pretend that some people like to hug very enthusiastically (which works fine until one day you walk in on Johnny and Bill, causing your eyesight to be scarred for life).
But the worst part about the whole 'free love' arrangement our street's got going is holidays. Labor day, ANZAC day, the Queen's birthday – you name it, most of us are getting new siblings for our birthdays nine months later. Honestly, Mum, don't you think you should stop at five?
Even parties. Parties in our street are more like invitations for all the neighbours to go over, get drunk, fall asleep in the vegetable patch and stroll home later that morning. If it weren't a nice, working-class suburban street I'd almost think I live in a commune.
The whole thing is made more awkward by the fact that most of us go to the local high school, and if anyone ever asks where you're from, all you need to say is, "Ca-" and they go, "Oh, you mean Carnal Cove?"
That's what it's been dubbed. Carnal Cove. It's quite possibly the lamest nickname ever, but apparently the oldies think it's hilarious – so much so, that Rob Dickson's mum across the street wrote into the local paper about it and they did a whole feature on it. They took photos as well, and it was the very week I'd had my jaw broken for my braces. Guess whose photo was on the front page, too?
We have the dubious pleasure of being situated right next door to 27 Carnal Cove, the most notorious house on the street and home to the infamously promiscuous Kane Hassan.
Make no mistake – Kane Hassan might seem like your typical whoring profligate, but in reality he is so much more than that. You know the sort of guy that would make grandmothers turn in their graves and juvenile girls jump with excitement? That could apply to him, only his case is so bad that no self-respecting pre-pubescent girl will go near him with a ten-foot pole… excluding my sister.
Which is why when I heard a high-pitched laugh through the wall that sounded strangely familiar (read: beloved sister's phony braying) I felt compelled to go and investigate. After all, it would be me who'd have to take her to the GP's for STD treatment.
I considered banging on the wall that separated Kane Hassan's room and mine (all of the houses were built wall-to-wall; I just had the good fortune of sharing the partition with him) but decided that it would be pointless, especially considering the fact that Brennan's ear piercing shrieks would have just hidden the sound anyway.
Realising this, I simply took the nearest exit route: the window. For anyone who's tried to climb out of an old fashioned window before, you will know how indescribably difficult it is to squeeze your entire body out of the small gap between the window-sill, the window-pane itself and the chain jutting out in the middle. This is all made harder when you have an ass the size of Uluru.
After falling out of the window, getting my (admittedly bushy) hair caught on the chain and ripping the hem of my night-shirt, I was ready to storm through the gate and bash Hassan to a pulp. Or at least retrieve my slutty sister before I became an aunt (especially considering the baby would've been hideously ugly, with its parents).
For some reason or another, the entrepreneurs that had decided to build our estate had had the good faith that all the neighbours would be great friends, because they'd put gates in all the fences. Which is all well and good when there's two lonely little old ladies, but what about the evil kid next door and his hungry pit bull? Nevertheless, it made my job a hell of a lot easier… until I realised that the Hassan's pit bull? Yeah, it hadn't got run over by that truck the week before.
'Slobbers', as Kane, in all his seven-year-old brilliance had called it, acted as if he hadn't been fed for the last two weeks. And judging by how busy the Hassan boys' social lives were, I didn't doubt it for a moment.
I was pretty sure that to Slobbers, I looked like the meal of a lifetime. Call me crazy, but I really didn't feel like getting eaten by a psychopathic pit pull – especially when I knew how much Kane Hassan would enjoy feeding me to the dog. Sadistic bastard.
The smartest thing to do, I thought at the time, would be to take off my hideously fluffy slipper and to throw it away as a distraction. It's pretty logical, right? Dog chases shoe, Callie runs for dear life to avoid being eaten by said dog.
Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out as I'd planned. Oh, I threw the slipper, all right – turns out that I have fantastic aim, because I hit Slobbers right in the centre of his furry ugly face. Instead of him chasing the shoe as it plopped into the backyard pond, however, he watched it sink before turning back to me and – get this – grinning evilly. I'd swear it on my life. Kane Hassan had taught that dog so freaking well that it had turned into his exact likeness. Madame Tussaud could not have done a better job.
Another high-pitched shriek of laughter that reached near-impossible decibels reverberated around the yard and I winced. Don't get me wrong, I do have a backbone… somewhere. It's just that when it comes to dogs, all my bravado mysteriously disappears and I'm left cowering in a corner with sweat dripping off my brow. Kane once told me it was because I have a chronic fear of my own species, but my psychiatrist believes I have repressed issues from third grade when the Hassan's other dog, Spike, was set upon me and clamped his little teeth on my shoe. (Keep in mind that Spike was a miniature Jack Russel puppy, and was barely fifteen centimetres tall.)
Kane was fully aware of this, and he probably also knew of my presence on the other side of the gate, outside his window. The sad thing is that even in all his truculency, he most likely wasn't even enjoying my suffering that much. He was just too much of a lazy prick to be bothered to act as my knight-in-shining amour.
Ha. Kane Hassan would become my knight-in-shining amour the day I turned into a damsel in distress. Like that was ever going to happen.
Shuddering from the very thought of Kane Hassan even contemplating being heroic (that's like wondering if the Earth will start to sag and float away from the sun because of the burden of our gigantic population), I squared my shoulders and determinedly attempted to open the door. It fervently resisted, subsequently leading to two things occurring simultaneously.
One: Slobbers decided that I would make a palatable early-morning snack. With a bark that rivalled that of our noisy old chainsaw (and just as scary), he lunged straight for the jugular. And no, I don't mean in a figurative sense with a biting comment. I mean that those sharp, pointed teeth he seemed to have so many of were flying straight towards my throat.
My life flashed before my eyes. Memories of tea parties, street footy and Kane Hassan dangling a string in front of my eyes (a botched attempt at trying to hypnotise me) all sped through my mind and I closed my eyes, awaiting the force of the Jaws of Death. I'm also not too sure about the validity of the whole 'White Light' experience, because I didn't experience it. The most I got was a tiny spot of pink, which could have been the result of staring at my ceiling for a few too many hours or a random blind spot from the sun (never mind the fact that sundown was eight hours before).
This is the part where some random should have done a Tarzan, swung down on a vine, saved me and taken me to their love-nest built high in the trees. Or a Shrek and thrown me over their shoulder and over a lava-covered volcano. Instead all I got was a lack of razor sharp canines connecting with my throat and a mocking laugh.
"You can open your eyes, Cavy," Kane Hassan's derisive voice floated over to my ears. I couldn't even glare at his misuse of my name, I was so terrified. Honestly, I don't know why he thought it was so hysterical to name me after the rodent family. It's not as if anyone else we knew ever got the joke.
My eyes opened slowly to take in the sight of Slobbers sitting down affably on the top step of the Hassan's verandah. My gaze slid upwards further, from the tanned arm loosely holding the pit bull's collar, right up the belligerent smirk on his lips. If I had hackles, they would have been raised so high that I would have looked like a feline puffer fish.
We didn't do the whole 'aw-look-they're-arguing-again-how-cute' thing. Kane Hassan and I had full on bitch fights, used low-blow insults and the most derogatory terms we could think of, which was usually Kane's department (as much as it galls me to say it, he's a mite smarter than I am). When we fought, everyone in the immediate vicinity ran for the hills.
Nevertheless, at almost two in the morning, I didn't exactly feel like racking my brain for witticisms. Instead I took a deep breath and attempted to regain the little patience that remained whenever I was within a hundred metres of him.
"Can you get my sister?"
That threw him. If he had been capable of it, I'm sure he would have even looked surprised. As it was, he let go of Slobbers' collar, who then proceeded to make a move towards me. "Who?"
Prick. He hadn't lived next to me for eighteen years and never met the numerous members of my family. "Brennan. You know, tall, blonde and until about thirty seconds ago, in your pants?"
"Oh." He had the gall to smirk at me, as if I was the funny one. "You mean Princess? We weren't being too loud for you, were we?"
I raised an eyebrow sweetly. "Of course not. You know what they say – the first time is always the loudest."
He smirked outright. "She is kind of obstreperous, isn't she?"
That stuck me. I was completing the lowly general English, while he'd passed honours English with flying colours the year before. I decided to address the subject diplomatically – that is, avoid it altogether. "I'm sure you're used to loud children." That, if anything, was the wrong thing to say. His blue eyes became even more glacial and the casualness that had been radiating off of him halted halfway.
Generally when things like that happen on movies, it's always because the main character has some sort of shady past with that kind of thing. I mean sure, it'd be kind of hard to know if it had, but his parents are the most liberal forces I've ever come across – and there are quite a few at Carnal Cove. Their kids could have burned the house down and they wouldn't have noticed.
I think it was more the implication that only the younger girls ever bothered to satisfy his libido that bothered him. In any case, he stepped down from the porch and moved – glided – towards me, so that my back was pressed firmly against the trellis that had been placed in the garden to train the non-existent vines.
One arm was placed on either side of my body, and I was forced to look the fucker in the face. Can anyone say "personal space"? On the bright side, despite his midnight tryst with my sister, he was fully clothed in jeans, a white tank top with a leather jacket thrown haphazardly over the top. I resisted the impulse to adjust the collar – I have borderline OCD.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Slobbers evidently wasn't too happy about his master being pressed up against his dinner, because he let out a feral growl that almost made me piss my pants – if I'd been wearing any. As it was, the thin over-sized t-shirt I was wearing wasn't exactly protecting me from the elements.
I shrugged coolly. "Have you ever been with anyone over the legal age?" See that, there? That was a low blow.
"Have you ever been with anyone?" He countered swiftly, frigid eyes sweeping over my body. Pity the t-shirt only just ended past my ass – I'd grown a lot over the last few months.
My face was pitying. "Darling, just because I don't want to be arrested doesn't mean I don't have fun." I really should have called the cop shop instead of ruining my evening by to be attacked by a ferocious canine and a horny guy who'd just slept with my sister.
His breath was hot on my ear. "And what would I be arrested for, pray tell?"
I snorted. "No wonder you can't get a real lay. At least the kiddies can't understand the bullshit spewing from your mouth."
"My mouth can do a lot more than that."
Okay, the conversation was turning salacious. Pride is a dangerous thing though, and it wouldn't allow me to squirm underneath his heavy-lidded gaze.
"Yeah?" Look, I'm not saying that we had never experienced sexual tension before. Because that's pretty much all our encounters ever were. Not in a 'you're-my-soul-mate-I-love-you' way; more of a 'I've-known-you-for-years-and-your-insults-turn-me-on' kind of way. But nothing ever evolved from it. Most likely because I would rather die than allow him to touch me in any way, let alone like a 'mummy and daddy touch'. (Description courtesy of my brother when he saw Kane and some random hooking up in the driveway one time.)
He raised an eyebrow enigmatically. "Don't believe me, Cavy?" His prurient voice almost made the whole nickname thing… well, hot.
Until my sister ruined the effect by leaning out the window and screaming, "What the fuck are you doing out there?"
I almost jumped out of my skin. Kane's window was right above my head and my sister hadn't been more than ten centimetres away from my ear. He, however, merely shot an amused look at my reaction.
"Did that scare you?"
I stared back at him defiantly, although I could feel my eyebrow twitching. "Never figured you for a talker, Hassan."
"Oh, believe me," he whispered, leaning in closer, despite the fact that Brennan was still semi-naked in his room and waiting for him, "I'm not."
I had to tilt my head to the side slightly so that our noses wouldn't touch. I really didn't think he was taking he sizeable length of my nose into consideration. "I don't know. You and Brennan seemed to be deeply engaged in conversation, from what I could hear through the wall."
This, I could tell – or would've been able to tell, if he ever showed any sign of emotion – intrigued him. "You often like to hang around and listen to my… conversations?"
'Conversations' was breathed into my ear and I found myself surprised by the absence of garlic breath, which I'd heard was a trait commonly found among the whole Hassan clan. The only reason it had taken me seventeen years to be able to refute the rumours was because not many of the Hassans make a habit of breathing in my face.
In fact, the rest of the Hassan boys had learnt years ago that I'd play footy with them, that I'd bash them if they hurt my friends, that I'd even have a drinking contest with them – but that I would never, ever do the dirty with them. (Especially considering the fact that with them, it really would be dirty.)
And until now, nobody had tried, either.
Then again, I'd also made the consequences clear if they messed with my sisters. (If it was my brothers I didn't really care – they could go wild and I'd wave them off with a, "Have a nice day!")
So the whole compromising position that I was in with Kane Hassan was an entirely new one, and I wasn't exactly thrilled about it, either. I mean, how was I supposed to think of new and effective insults if my brain was too busy noticing how ice-coloured his eyes were?
I tried for a nonchalant shrug. "Not really. They never last long enough for me to notice." Ha. It amazed me that I was still lucid enough to come up with that petty shot.
He smirked, the irritating stubble that he refused to shave – no matter how many times I told him he looked like a balding chimpanzee – dragging across my cheek. "Or maybe you're too busy wallowing in your own self pity to hear."
Ouch. That stung, despite the fact I had no idea what he was talking about. "Self pity?" This time it was me breathing – dare I say it – heavily as he moved his body closer, until we were so firmly pressed up against each other that a pin couldn't have passed between us.
"Oh," he almost managed to feign shock; "you haven't noticed how nobody dares to go near you?"
That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is what we like to call a classic hit. One where the truth rings so loudly you can't even attempt to discredit the claim.
This is where I pulled on my metaphorical steel-toed boots and kicked him in the family jewels…
"You're such a fucking prick!" … Or not.
When I get angry, my mind completely shuts off from my mouth and they become two separate entities. It's a bit like blind rage, except that it takes a lot for me to get physically violent. Compared to my sister who is pathologically destructive, I am often considered the lesser of the two evils. The people who assume this are usually wrong.
"Harsh," Kane noted, as his open jacket swung in the early morning breeze to cover me. I was now completely and utterly ensnared in his viperous trap, and the only way I was going to get help was if I called out in a desperate plea to his new-found fuck-buddy. Well, screw that.
I stopped struggling – assuming I had even started, because my brain had turned to mush yet again – and stared up at him with a cold fury that could have belonged to him. "Aaron Mitchells last month."
Kane's mouth twitched in what could have been a quirk. "Doesn't count. He just didn't want his mother to know he was a fag. And even then he never went closer than half a metre."
"Right." My smile turned malicious. "So what you're doing right now is… a chaste hug between childhood friends?"
"Cavy," his lips were practically on top of mine, so that I could almost feel the imprint they were about to make, "we were never friends."
"No shit. Maybe because I'd kick your ass every time you came near me."
He grinned, now, probably the first one in all his eighteen years and the seventeen I'd known him for. "So what I'm doing right now is… seducing someone legal?"
All that just to prove a point. Should've known he never would have willingly come into contact with me. Exchanging innuendos is one thing, but the alarm bells should have been ringing when he pressed himself up against me so that I was stuck between his chest and the wall. After all, I'm a little too old for his taste.
So it was no wonder that I had no reservations when it came to exacting vengeance on him. I didn't waste time by staring up at him in open-mouthed shock, but judiciously brought my knee up and aimed straight between his legs.
Unfortunately it seemed that Kane was onto something when he chose me as his victim, because it turned out that eight inches in height difference – although it was made considerably smaller with the fact I was standing on a raised garden bed – is an effective hindrance when it comes to the attacker.
It took me so long to raise my previously jelly-filled leg that he managed to catch it… and subsequently suspended it mid-air, so that it was half curled around his waist. Really, if my sister had looked out the window at that moment it would have looked as if I was the rabid STD riddled hooker, not her.
"That," Kane said, making me uncomfortably aware of the fact that I was practically straddling him, "is not very nice."
Anger flared up in my eyes and I hissed out a low, "Fuck you."
"If you insist." And then his mouth was on mine, pressing insistently and urging me to open mine. My right leg took on a mind of its own and ended up off of the ground, in a move that could only be described as so atypical of me that it took both of us by surprise. The only thing preventing me from falling into a heap on the mulch below was the fact that I was so tightly pressed against the wall.
The not-so chaste hug was quickly turning into a scandalous make-out session that could have caused Brennan to blush.
When we finally pulled apart, we were both breathing hard, but it hadn't relived me of my homicidal urges. If anything, they had only intensified – fucker.
"What the fuck-" Brennan stood outside the back door, predictably wrapped in only a masculine bath robe and with telling 'bed hair'.
I stared at her, too mortified to do anything but draw a sharp intake of breath. Kane, on the other hand, seemed amused. It dawned on me then that he'd had a go at two sisters in one night – no wonder he seemed immensely pleased with himself.
Bracing myself for the verbal bashing that I was sure I had coming, I completely forgot that I was still wrapped around Kane like a Tasmanian Devil in heat (my God, the documentaries on their mating rituals are appalling).
"Oh my God!" There was that insidious little screech again – ironically, the very one I'd risked life and limb to come over and investigate. "That is so cute!"
You know your life's screwed when your sister catches her fuck-buddy and her elder sibling going at it for all they're worth and gets excited.
I blinked at her. Kane, on the other hand, said nothing, although I could definitely tell he was interested to see where it was going to go. Not that there was any emotion at all on his face, but still. It was a bit like a blank canvas – they're supposed to have meaning, but really you could just see on it what you wanted and no one could prove you wrong.
"You're so frigid and he's a man-whore, and we were just fucking and I come out here to see you tamed by him!" Sometimes my sister is so vacuous it's scary.
"That's a bit hypocritical," Kane drawled at her. Turning back to me – although considering my position it would have been difficult to forget I was there – he added, "Don't worry. You certainly weren't frigid just now."
Of all the fricking things he could have said, he picked the one statement that almost gave Brennan an aneurism.
"Oh my God!" I'm entirely convinced the whole 'Valley Girl' subculture was based off of her. "Do it again!" Her robe fell open then, but she didn't seem to notice… And oddly enough, neither did Kane. He was too busy staring down at my own boobs to notice hers.
"Let's give her a show then," he murmured – huskily? – at my lips, before capturing them with his own.
Sometime throughout that kiss, he dropped one of my legs to concentrate on sliding his hand up under my top/dress. I took the opportunity to kick him as hard as I could in the shin, especially considering I barely had control of my motor skills at all, let alone the brain capacity to even comprehend the impending consequences of my actions.
Well. At least we knew he could express his discomfort well enough.
I smirked. I would have started chuckling as well if he hadn't shot me a look that could've killed a lesser person. Luckily I was made of stronger stuff (but apparently not sexual nerves of steel, after our near-fornication).
"Would you," he directed at Brennan, not exactly kindly, "rack off?" This was a request she was only too happy to comply with, still muttering deliriously about me 'finally growing up'.
Then there was only the two of us left. I didn't even have the enjoyable prospect of becoming Slobbers' favourite meal, because he'd gone off to some other random's backyard to sulk. If I didn't have as much pride as I did I might have gulped, because all of a sudden Kane Hassan, for the first time since I could recall, intimidated me.
Not in a 'I'm-going-to-use-my-axe-to-decapitate-you' way, though, thank God. But I looked up into his arctic blue eyes and I didn't have a clue as to the thoughts behind them. He was a total enigma to me then and I'm sure the bemused expression gracing my face didn't exactly help my case, either.
"What was that?" He demanded roughly, voice still coarse from our very public make out session.
If I'd had the room, I would have shrugged. As it was, it took me a few seconds to find my voice. "I-"
For the third time that night, Kane Hassan's lips connected with my own, but this time they didn't crash down roughly or bruise them firmly. Instead they met mine half-way, with my arms moving up to intertwine around his neck and his own hands moving to cup my face.
The straggly beard was still annoying, though. And the height difference hurt my neck. But other than that, it was… perfectly acceptable.
Who am I kidding? I fucking loved it.
When there was no more oxygen left to steal from the other's lungs, we parted for air. Kane must have seen something in my expression that told him I was about to say something, because his mouth also opened – but at least our statement was unanimously agreed upon.
"I still hate you, you know."
My arms were still around his neck and he still had one hand up my night-shirt when we heard a familiar squeal from the window above us.
"Aw, you guys are even hating each other at the same time! Wait until I tell the neighbours that Carnal Cove's most hated people are together. It's just so cute!"
We ignored her, until Kane leant forward and whispered in my ear, "At least now you'll be able to show… who was it again? Aaron Mitchells, the fag, the tricks of the trade."
It was nice to know that some things would never change.