"Edy!" Mom called me from the driveway. "Edy, can you come get this box, please?"
I sighed from the backyard, having just moved the box containing the shed she had bought. "Can't Haley get it?" I called in return, wondering why my sister seemed to be incapable of doing anything besides her makeup.
"She's inside nursing some kind of injury," Ma yelled back. "I don't know, but I can't lift it."
I groaned, walking back through the side gate of our new home. San Antonio, Texas. It was definitely much bigger than our home town in Louisiana, but also less humid. I suppose it was a fair trade.
As I walked down the driveway I saw a man approaching my mother; he was closer to her than I was, and seemed to be coming from the direction of the house next door. "I can help you with that, ma'am, if you can't get it," he offered with a smile. He was about my mom's age, good-looking, with a broad and straight-toothed smile.
My mom smiled in return. "Could you? That would be-"
"I got it," I said gruffly, reaching them and hefting the box up, walking it inside.
"Strong girl you've got there," I heard the man comment as I disappeared through the front door.
"Haley," I called as I walked inside. "Haley, what are you doing? Ma needs our help outside."
Haley was running her finger under the water in the sink. She hissed in pain, pulling her hand out from under the stream to let me look at it; where her nail had been was now just a short, rough nub with a bleeding split down the middle. "Ouch," I commented. "And that is why I don't wear those fake nails. Come on, put a band-aid on it and gut it up."
I walked back outside to move in another box to find my mother still talking to the neighbor man. "That's an interesting accent," he commented, still smiling. "Where're y'all from?"
"Louisiana," Ma replied.
"Oh, that's interesting," the man said, and turned to me. "Hello, there. I was quite impressed with you carrying that box. What's your name?"
"Edith," I replied tonelessly. Why? Why was my mother such a flirt?
"I'm Perry," he told me, holding his hand out. I shook it reluctantly. "You know, I have a son your age. You should meet him, I think you two would hit it off."
"Judging by what?" I asked, frowning incredulously. "The way I said my name?"
He blinked at me for a moment but my mother laughed. "Edy has a strange sense of humor," she told Perry. "I'm sure she'd love to meet your son! Friends are always good to have in a strange place." She sent me a meaningful look.
I rolled my eyes, lifting another box and taking it inside. "Have you got a band-aid yet?" I demanded of my sister.
"It still burns," she whined, blowing on it.
"Jesus, Lord in Heaven, help me through these trying times," I prayed to the ceiling before walking back outside.
This time there was someone else standing with my mother and her new-found friend. Only this guy was nearly enough to make me stop in my tracks. A lean, muscular body was highlighted by a snug T-shirt, tanned skin lit by brilliantly green eyes and framed by shaggy brown hair. He glanced over at me for a moment, then looked away again, clearly disinterested. Well, two could play at that game.
I walked by him and onto the U-Haul, hefting another box up into my arms. "Edith, this is Thane," my mother told me.
"Hey," I grunted as I walked by, carrying the box into the house. I could feel all three of them staring at me.
When I returned I found that Haley had apparently gone back outside, carrying in the two little boxes that were left. I walked up onto the U-Haul carelessly, ignoring my mother's attempts to get me to join conversation, moving to the far end of the sofa and beginning to push it, sliding it toward the ramp.
Suddenly the neighbor boy appeared at the other end. "Need some help with that?" He asked uncaringly.
"Nope," I replied easily, sliding it around him.
He looked at me incredulously. "So what are you going to do once you get it off the truck?" He asked with an arched eyebrow. "Carry it into the house by yourself?"
"Maybe," I said, giving him a hard look. I had never much been a fan of boys. Especially not pretty boys. I suspected that this guy was more vain than Haley, and that was saying something. His very look, let alone his demeanor, irritated me.
"Come on, just let me help you," he said, sounding annoyed himself, blocking my path and putting his hands on the arm of the couch.
"I'm fine," I said through clenched teeth, trying to shove the sofa through him.
He gave me an indignant look before I heard my mother say, "For Heaven's sake, Edy, just let him help you into the house!"
I scowled and reluctantly squatted, sliding my hands under the sofa. "Ready?" I asked him, and he quickly followed suit. "One… two… Up."
He seemed slightly surprised when I stood, my end of the couch rising neatly off the floor of the truck. "Ah!" He cried as his fingers were squashed between the sofa and the metal floor.
I rolled my eyes impatiently, lowering my half of the couch so he could free his hands. "I was counting," I told him.
"I was expecting you to say three," he retorted.
I just looked at him. "Are you ready now?"
He scowled, crouching once more. "Ready?" I said. "Up." I hesitated a second before lifting this time to give his poor, slow little brain a chance to catch up.
Together we smoothly maneuvered the sofa into the living room. "Where do y'all want it?" He asked.
"Doesn't matter," I replied, dropping my end. He grunted and quickly lowered his end, as well.
He peered at me for a moment. "Not real friendly," he said.
"You noticed," I said dryly.
He smirked. "I wasn't talking about you," he replied. "I was warning you. I'm not friendly."
"Then we should have a perfectly good and quiet relationship," I said, turning and walking outside once more.
"…should come over for dinner," I heard my mother say. I sighed, closing my eyes.
"Sure, that'd be great!" Perry exclaimed. "What time do you want us?"
"How about six?" Ma suggested. Perry quickly agreed, waving as he walked back up the slight hill to his house.
A voice in my ear made me jump a little. "I guess that's my cue," Thane said softly, then turned a beaming smile on me. "It was really nice talking to you, Edith," he said cheerfully, waving to my mother before following his father to their house.
I peered after him suspiciously. So that's how he played? Sweet and friendly in front of the parents? Oh, we'd see how long that held up.
"I can't believe how handsome they are," Ma gushed, smiling widely at me. "Edy, we'll both have boyfriends!"
I stared at her in disbelief. "Are you kidding me?" I demanded. "That guy? He was… pretty." I said the last word with no little bit of disdain.
"You're so judgmental, Edy," Ma said reproachfully. "Give him a chance. They're coming over for dinner tonight, and we'll have a little unpacking party."
I let out a long-suffering sigh. Yeah, that's what we needed.
I went inside, letting our dog out of the bedroom we'd shut him in so he didn't run into the street or something stupid like that. "Hey, Dog," I said, crouching and playing with his ears. "Yeah, you can run around now. We even put in a doggy door for you." He licked my face and I watched him scamper off to explore the new terrain. Yes, his name was Dog. What can I say, my sister and I weren't very creative kids.
"You might want to shower, honey," Ma called to me. "They'll be here in a couple hours."
Like it takes me hours to get ready for a couple of scumbags, I thought with another eye-roll.
"You don't want to stink," Ma added.
"I don't stink," I retorted.
There was a pause, and I could sense her doubtful look. "After hefting all that furniture and stuff? You need to shower."
"I'm going to sweat when we unpack, anyway," I reminded her. "Can't I just shower then?"
"Edith Leigh Ann Christina Jessica Diana Theresa Kirsten Paula Amber Dawson!" Ma yelled.
I sighed. I hated my name. First she'd given me the name of some old lady in curlers, and then she'd added fifty on to it? The only ones I ever remembered were Leigh and Amber. "Fine, I'll shower," I called back.
"Thank you," she retorted, not sounding very thankful at all.
I grumbled, going into my new room and opening my suitcases, trying to remember which one held my towels. At last I found them, dodging boxes on my way to the bathroom.
After a quick- and super-hot- shower I returned to my room, considering my clothing options. Jeans with a baggy shirt or jeans with tank-top and hoodie? Tough choice. At last I decided that it was too hot and we'd be working, so I went with a loose T-shirt. Besides, I'd be able to sleep in a hoodie once my mother cranked the thermostat down.
I sat in front of the vanity that I had carried in earlier, inspecting myself in the mirror. Not bad, I thought. I was pale, my eyes were too big, and my hair was a mess, but it wasn't altogether a bad look. I ran a comb through my tangled hair before re-tousling it and letting it do whatever it wanted. I didn't even bother with makeup. Like I said, we'd be sweating. And it's not like I was trying to impress the neighbors, anyway.
When I emerged from my room they were there, sitting on the sofa I'd carried in. Wow, early much? I wondered, staring at them.
Perry turned, seeing me. "Hello, Edith," he said.
"It's Edy," I corrected, moving to sit in the chair farthest away from the couch. "I hate my name."
"Me, too," Thane said in a friendly fashion. "It's so weird."
"I think everybody hates their names," I said, trying to sound just as warm. If he wanted to be sweet in front of the parents, we'd be sweet in front of the parents.
He smiled at me, but I detected a glint of challenge in his eyes. My own eyes flashed in return. He thought he was so macho, so slick. Please. All guys thought that before I got through with them.
I'll give you a little background. My dad's a jerk. He beat on my mom a lot; finally they put him away, and Ma divorced him as soon as he was behind bars. Since then we moved a lot, usually every time we got a letter from him. My opinion of guys in general was not very high.
Don't get me wrong, I'd had a couple boyfriends here and there. But none of them had lasted more than a couple weeks. Apparently I was either too hostile or too detached. It didn't faze me at all- which may have substantiated the "detached" theory.
Now, Haley took a very different approach to men. She loved them. All of them. Now, I'm not saying that my sister was a slut- that would be horribly wrong of me. But she was definitely a skank. If it wore pants and resembled a guy, she'd date it. I think she got that from Ma.
Ma, too, was man-crazy. She had been looking for a new husband ever since her divorce from my dad. She'd had some good options, too- she was a good-looking woman. Built just like Hayley, only a little heavier, with sandy hair and a nice tan, not too many wrinkles. Guys her age were all over her. Unfortunately, though, her relationships lasted only until Dad found out where we were and we had to move on again. This was, however, the first time that we'd actually left Louisiana.
"Huh?" I asked, coming out of my stupor.
"I asked if you could get the door," Ma told me. "The check's on the mantle."
I stood, picking up the check and opening the door, handing it to the guy in exchange for the three pizzas he carried. He smiled at me, and I felt really bad for not having a tip for him, but that was my mom. "Thanks," I said instead, giving him a small smile as I shut the door.
I carried the pizzas in. "Let me help you with those," Thane said, appearing from nowhere and taking the pizzas from me, carrying them over to the dining room table. I gave a small glare to the back of his head.
We opened the boxes of pizzas as Haley retrieved paper plates, and Thane's face fell. "Pepperoni?" He asked, wrinkling up his nose.
"Yep," I said. "What? Who doesn't like pepperoni?"
"I'm a vegetarian," he said snidely.
I stared at him for a moment. "Are you kidding me? How do you live with no bacon?"
He ignored that, staring back down at the pizza in dismay.
"I'm so sorry," Ma said, frowning. "If I had known I would have ordered one with no meat."
"It's just a phase," Perry said, sounding slightly scornful. "He'll get over it." Thane sent him a glare. "If you don't want the pepperoni, just pick it off," his dad told him firmly. "Don't sulk."
"I'm not sulking," Thane said with the tiniest of pouts.
"I thought that vegetarians couldn't have cheese or anything, either," I said, watching him pick pepperoni off of his pizza in disgust.
He gave me a patronizing look. "I'm not a vegan," he said.
I scowled. "Sorry, I get my freaks mixed up."
"Edy, that's enough," Ma chided.
I bit my tongue, sending a glare at Thane. 'Later', my glare promised.
He just smirked at me and returned to the living room.
A while later he and I were sitting on the floor in my room, going through boxes. Or, rather, I was going through boxes and he was watching me. I don't know why Ma had sent him in with me; Haley had practically begged for him to come help her. After all, he was a good-looking guy, and Haley had no resistance to good-looking guys. But no. My ever-loving mother had decided that since the two of us had "hit it off" so well he needed to come and work with me.
Insults and names had been passed back and forth for the last ten minutes.
"Freak," I said, unwrapping another trinket and putting it on a shelf.
"Animal killer," he spat in return.
I arched an eyebrow at him. "I have a dog," I reminded him.
He snickered. "Yeah. And I thought I saw chew-marks on his tail."
I rolled my eyes. "Tree-hugger."
"Carnivore," he responded easily.
I folded my arms and looked back at him. "Poser."
He blinked. "Poser?" He asked incredulously.
I nodded. "I mean, come on. Snide and stupid when we're alone, but sweet and friendly when we're around the parents? Fakers don't come much worse than you."
He scoffed. "You were doing the same thing."
I shrugged. "Only because you started it," I replied. "I have no problem mocking you in front of the parents. I just didn't want to embarrass you in front of your dad or anything."
"Please," he scoffed again. "My dad doesn't care, as long as I hold my own in school."
I frowned. "What does that even mean?"
He shrugged, not answering me.
I rolled my eyes yet again and continued unpacking.
Suddenly he was beside me, pulling things out of the box. "Hey, this is cool," he said, looking at one of my statues.
I glanced up and, sure enough, there stood my mom, leaning in the doorway.
I snickered, looking back to his hands. "It's a Precious Moment," I said scornfully. "Are you gay?"
"Edy!" Ma yelped.
"What?" I demanded. "Come on, what guy likes Precious Moments?"
Ma gave me a disapproving look before walking back down the hallway.
"See?" I said smugly. "No problem."
He smirked at me. "Whatever," he said. "Just wait until your mother starts reaming you for being so mean to such a sweet guy."
I frowned; the sad thing was, I knew he was probably right.