What's the difference between red orange and orange red? Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway? How do ships float? How do islands remain stationary?
Why is John getting put into a headlock by my seventy-year-old neighbor?
"Mrs. Norfield! Mrs. Norfield!" I called as I ran down my porch in my heels and onto the edge of my lawn. "It's okay! I know him."
She stopped in her attempt to put him into a coma and pointed at his beet-red head with a steady finger. "You know this chump?"
I nodded. Unfortunately.
John was still wriggling around in her hold. It was a sad sight, really; but I'll admit that I didn't mind Mrs. Norfield's extended hesitation in freeing him from her steel grasp.
"I saw him trying to climb in through my window. Kid thought he was getting a peep show instead of the barrel of my rifle." She released him and gave him a firm thump on the back as a "no hard feelings" gesture. I think. John almost toppled over.
"For the thousandth time, lady," he coughed, trying to catch his breath. "I got the wrong house, okay?! The whole damn neighborhood looks the same. Gimme me a break."
Mrs. Norfield narrowed her eyes and wrapped her periwinkle bathrobe around her elderly body tighter. "Mm-hmm. That's what they all say. I know I still got it." After one last hard look, she wheeled around and strutted back into her house. Yes, that's right. She strutted.
John grumbled, but made no move to say anything until her front door slammed shut. "Yeah, you better run!" he shouted afterward, suddenly regaining his courage. I could've sworn I heard the faint sound of a gun cocking—and apparently, so did John. "Let's get inside before she hangs our heads up on her wall." He ducked low and pulled me towards the direction of my house.
"No. No." I dug my heel into the ground and resisted. "First, I want to know what the hell you're doing here."
"What are you talking about? We're going on a date. That's why you're dressed like a sexy vixen." I guess his fear must have suddenly disappeared into thin air because he winked at me. "You know what's even better than a sexy vixen? A naked sexy vixen."
I made a move to punch him in the throat, but it appears that he finally caught on (after the last three times) and wrapped a hand around my wrist to prevent me from doing so. "Alright! Alright! It was just a joke."
I crossed my arms. "We're not going on a date. Beau and I are going on a date. You just overheard us talking."
John snapped his fingers in a "darn it"-way. "I was hoping you'd forget. Or at least, mix us up again. You know that's how we first met." He clasped his hands together and slightly nudged me.
"Damn it. Lorraine never specified that there were two tall blond guys in the band! How was I supposed to know?" Best friends aren't supposed to screw each other over. It's an unwritten rule that clearly, my best friend never memorized.
He tapped a patient finger on my cheek. "And do you remember what you called me that night, honey? Cute."
"For God's sake, I thought you were Beau."
"I can be whoever you want, baby," John leaned in close enough so that I could hear his whisper. "Now, let's blow this Popsicle stand before the big bad wolf comes."
"I disagree. I'm going on a date with the 'big bad wolf,' so you can blow your way out of here. And don't--" I placed a heavy emphasis on the word, "create a sexual innuendo out of that."
John scowled. "Party pooper."
"And here he is," I announced just as the familiar silver Lexus languidly pulled into my driveway. Next to me, a loud and appalled gasp was directed towards the guy behind the wheel.
"Dude! No!" John was shocked. "I didn't know you were borrowing my car for this!"
"Sorry, man," Beau tipped his hat in my direction before shooting John a genuinely apologetic look. "Mine's in the shop. I promise I'll return it good as new."
John stammered, looking at his car…to me…to Beau…and to the car again. "I'm not providing the transportation for you to take my girlfriend out on a date!"
"I'm not your damn girlfriend!" I shouted, squeezing the life out of my black clutch. "That's never going to happen, you murderer!"
"It wasn't my fault! How do you even know it was him for sure, anyway?!"
"We had a connection!"
"I still don't see why you're getting your panties in a twist over this," John mumbled. "And no, that was not another excuse to talk about your panties."
I ignored the second half of his comment. "You can't run over my pet squirrel and then ask me out on a date! What kind of—of animal are you?!"
"Maybe I'll let you find out if you go out with me."
"Hey, hey," Beau interjected calmly. "Let's not get worked up now."
"Let's go, Beau," I huffed and started in the direction of the car. I wanted to put as much distance between me and the cold-blooded killer as possible.
"I'm telling Lorraine," John mumbled and kicked at the ground. "You'll be sorry."
"Lor's my best friend, so shut the hell up."
"And Beau's one of my best friends…" He trailed off. "…homewrecker."
"Yes, John," I rolled my eyes before I slid into the passenger seat. "Call me names. I'll fall right in love with you."
A grin lit up his face again. "I know you like that, baby."
The boy is an absolute nutcase, but he's damn quick with his little remarks. I guess it's a guy thing. John peered through my open window once Beau gently shut the door and made his way around to the driver's side. "I'll give you one last chance, Kandy. I've got the mini putt-putt lined up and everything."
"Thank you, but no."
He sighed and looked past me at Beau. "Best friends don't do this to each other."
"I'm sorry, man. But it's a fair game," Beau gently reminded him. "You said so yourself."
I patted Beau's delightfully muscled arm and wordlessly encouraged him to stay strong. I didn't want him falling into John's guilt trip. "Besides," I looked at the blond boy leaning down outside the car, "who died and made you the best friend police?"
"Your pet squirrel, apparently," he retorted out of impulse.
I gasped. He gasped. I punched him in the throat.
John hacked and backed away from the window. "I should press charges one day," he rasped.
"Kandy," Beau, next to me, softly chided with one hand on the door handle. He was getting ready to help John, if needed. He's such a sweetheart. How did he end up with an asshole for a best friend?
"He deserved it."
"I think I need mouth-to-mouth," John suggested hoarsely at the edge of my window. Beau opened his door and swiftly walked around the car to aid his friend.
Still sitting snugly in my seat, I pouted. Okay, maybe I'm feeling the tiniest bit of guilt now. Only a tiny bit, though.
Almost as tiny as John's brain.
When Memorial Day weekend rolled by, I was sure John had given up in his quest already. He can't even focus this much attention on an episode of Spongebob, let alone a girl. But alas, I was wrong again.
"John, I'm not taking sides," my best friend, Lorraine, was telling him at my barbecue. "I only helped you that one time because I felt bad for you."
"Then you can help me a second time! I won't tell Beau," he made a shushing motion with his index finger. "This will be our little secret."
Lorraine laughed and laid a hand on his shoulder. "John, I think it's amazing that you're so-"
"Princess, look!" Her boyfriend, Jayden, had used a strand of my younger cousin's hair to form a long mustache on his upper lip. "Let's play Russian Spy, Not Russian Spy. I'll be the Russian Spy."
"Oh, Jay," she murmured exasperatedly. "Did you accidentally eat glue again? I told you to check the label first! Not everything white and mushy is yogurt!" She asked John to wait a minute and dashed off to check on Jayden.
John watched her sprint away and scratched his head. It was his signature move, and one that always puts a smile on my face for some reason. It was such an innocent move. I stood, watching him; but after some debate, I decided to walk over.
"Hey, sexy," he said with a grin.
"What are you up to, John?"
"Me? I'm never up to anything."
I eyed him skeptically.
He shot me a wicked smile and held his arms out at his sides. "You can strip-search me, if you want."
I couldn't help but to crack a smile. "John, you're ridiculous."
"No, baby. You're supposed to say, "John, you're crazy," and I'm supposed to cleverly reply with, "Crazy for you."" He threw his hands up as if this was the most obvious thing to do.
"I think you're just crazy in general."
"I'm not the crazy one," he scoffed and pointed an accusing finger at me. "You're the one that slashed my tires."
"You're the one that ran over Nutty!"
"Is that your squirrel's name?"
"Yes. It was."
"Well…that was an accident!"
"So were your tires!" I retorted and crossed my arms over my chest. So much for a pleasant conversation.
"Oh, so you accidentally picked up a knife, accidentally drove to my house, and accidentally slashed all four of my tires?"
"That's right," I replied evenly.
John stared at me in astonishment. I shifted uncomfortably beneath his gaze. I hated having a conscience sometimes.
"…God, I love you," he breathed.
The unpredictability of his answer, as well as his delivery, caused me to laugh. If there's one thing John's good at, it's making me laugh. Actually, I think that's the only thing he's good at—oh, wait…and killing other people's pets. I can't forget that one.
He took my hand in his and lightly pulled me over to him. Wrapping his arms around me from behind, John murmured, "You liked me before."
I confess; I did show an interest in him. In my defense, he became hard to resist after a while. He's been persistent since the beginning of the school year, and because he's my best friend's boyfriend's close friend (you still with me?), we were constantly in each other's presence. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
But really, what got me wasn't his fifth-grade humor or his love for sexual insinuations. It was actually his relentless antics that became quite entertaining…but I'll take that with me to the grave. "Yeah, before you killed Nutty."
"Let's just call that…a rough patch in our relationship. Just another bump in the road."
I gasped and turned to glare at him.
"Oops." His blue eyes widened. "That was terrible wording."
I leaned back against his shoulder and watched the clouds move against each other. "I don't know. Beau's such a sweetheart. He's a gentleman; how could you not like that?"
"What are you trying to say here?" John replied defensively.
"Honey, don't kid yourself."
He kissed my shoulder lightly. "I don't think you want a gentleman."
"What do you think I want?"
Moi? he mouthed hopefully and then whispered, "I've still got mini putt-putt lined up."
"Do you know how long I've liked you? Chased after you, for God's sake? I don't even have pets for that long!"
I focused on hitting the tiny ball as accurately as I possibly could. "You boys only want what you can't have."
"That's not true. I'm not a boy; I'm a man."
"Okay. Okay. Now shut up so I could hit this stupid thing," I grasped the club tighter and readied my aim.
"God, mini putt-putt is hard."
I sighed and relaxed my posture, my concentration now entirely broken. "John. Shut the hell up."
Focus. Focus. Be the ball. You are the ball.
"Dude, I think I smell hot dogs!"
Oh, dear Lord.
"Kandy, I love your bitchy attitude, your short temper, and even your threats to call the cops on me."
"Don't get too mushy now, John. I might start crying."
"Did I mention your biting sarcasm? Look, I know I joke around all the time, but I'm being serious now. I love everything about you. Otherwise…I would have given up a long time ago."
"When was the last time you got any?"
"What? From my hand?"
"The blow-up doll under my bed?"
"Johnathon." I tried to give him a stern look, but I felt a grin tugging on my lips.
"Oh. A long time ago. Which is why I have those as reinforcements." He laughed at the look on my face. "No, but really. I..love you like Romeo loved Juliet, like Antony loved Cleopatra, like Dora loved…explore-a."
"Like Blue loved clues?"
"Why, of course."
"We have to set Beau up with someone," I whispered, tracing small circles on the side of John's neck. "We can't just leave him alone."
"I know. He is my best friend. I'm not gonna do him like that," John whispered back and caressed my cheekbone. With the exception of the two of us, there were no others outside in the park. Only crickets and fireflies kept us company. "I've got this cousin. She's from Florida. I think they'll hit it off."
"Beau is from Louisiana."
"Yeah. The South, right?
I chuckled and caught his eye despite being clothed in the thin curtain of the night. "John."
"I forgive you. For accidentally killing Nutty."
He wrapped his arm securely around me so that I don't fall off his lap. "And I forgive you for slashing my tires. And punching me in the throat. And destroying my three hundred dollar phone. And si-"
I pressed a finger against his lip. "Okay, I get it."
John kissed me softly on the mouth and smiled. "You're just nutty."
"I forgive you for that lame joke." I shifted so that I was straddling him and grabbed his head of blond hair between my hands. Even in the dark, I could see his blue eyes clearly. "John," I murmured against his mouth.
His hands moved to grasp my waist. "Yeah, babe?"
"Let's go mini putt-putting again."
"Only if you let me win this time."
a/n: Yay for Kandy & John! Don't worry; Beau has John's Floridian cousin to find comfort in! Oh, and please do not attempt to punch anyone in the throat. It's fairly dangerous, I'm sure. The second chapter of Summer Air will be posted when I have more time.
For Essevera and her undying devotion to BANJO.