Half Your Age Plus Seven

Chapter 1: Yet another reason to hate math.

Countdown unless you're juvenile let's go
God bless your miss somewhere
We're sick for the big sun
It doesn't matter what you did
and if you did it like you been told

True and everlasting that's what you want
True and everlasting that's what you want

-Phoenix: Countdown

So I know this guy named Aaron Nottinghem—your typical golden boy-type character. You know, tall, dark, and handsome (with just the slightest touch of the crazy). He and I go waaay back, as in elementary-back. We don't exactly live in those rinky-dink middle western fargo-type small towns. So don't be assuming we live in a city with population….50 or something. No, we live in Los Angeles. Population: way too high to be sanitary. Bottom line is that we live in a city that corrals us like a herd of wild pigs. Cows. ANYWAYS.

Aaron and I have somehow managed to keep in touch over the years. If only we had been those types of kids who grew up together, going to the same schools together, taking baths together and whatnot. Not exactly, so enough of those romantic ideas. We happened to share a common babysitter. Beatrice Buferd. In case you were wondering, the poor girl looked exactly like how her name sounded. The powers that be are so very cruel sometimes. Well, at least it ain't me.

Basically, his mother lived down the street from Bernadette Buferd, mother of Beatrice Buferd, who also happened to do Wednesday-night yoga with my mother. So both mothers ended up calling upon the services of Ms. Beatrice, which is how their lovely offspring became acquainted.

The Nottinghems moved away some time near the end of elementary school, which left me all by my lonesome self with Beatrice. You know I'm still giving Aaron shit for that. But yes, we kept in touch by exchanging snail mail here and there. Back in ye olde days, there was nay such thing as Bookface, Yourspace, or any other space. In fact, you were damn-near lucky to even have internet access. That, and we were both a couple of dumbass kids who didn't know how to use e-mail. So snail mail it was. Yeah, you can imagine how well that went.

So imagine my surprise when Mr. Nottinghem himself plopped his tight ol' ass next to mine in homeroom, freshman year. Actually, I was not very surprised at all, seeing as how by that time yours truly had their very own MySpace. And I'll spare you from the math: yesss, I lied about my age when the folks at MySpace ask for your age. And you underage liars did, too.

Aaron had gone on and on about this grand little surprise he had in store for me. If you know me at all, you'll know I fucking hate surprises. I'm not gonna lie, they suck. Like, no joke. One time my friends decided to oh-so-cleverly surprise me on my birthday by kidnapping me, in my pajamas, and sneaking us into a gay club. We're not talking one of those sexy lace-corset numbers, either. I'm talking ratty triple-XL shirt and track shorts. The lousy bastards wouldn't even let me throw on a bra! I don't know how they did it, I don't care how they did it, and I'm content to die never knowing how. Being surrounded by hordes of hot gay bodies that can shimmy their asses in ways you never could is not exactly my idea of fun, you dig? Talk about a craptastic birthday.

After threatening to slice off his gonads, I found out that Aaron and his family were moving back in time for him to start high school. Which is when we fell in love and made out. Right? No?

To be clear, there isn't a damned thing wrong with Aaron. The kid is almost perfect, I tell you. Somewhere in between the process of puberty, the pudgy little kid I loved had sprouted ten inches, promptly losing his muffin top. You'd never be able to detect the former fat kid in his athletic 6'1 frame. Let's just say his pants are basically tighter than mine. It's almost to the point where seeing him shirtless completely freaks me out. I feel like one wrong move, and he'll crush me like a bug with all of his raging muscles.

He's also very, very sweet and very, very funny. That kid knows how to crack me up like it's going out of style. I know, right? Atheltic, sweet, and funny?

Thank GOD he's almost an idiot. Not that he's legitimately stupid or anything, but he's pretty mediocre when it comes to the world of academia. Possibly even a little below average. Which makes for one very happy camper in me, because lord knows I can't handle being around that kind of perfection for very long.

Well there you have it. Aaron Nottinghem: almost perfect. So…

Why aren't we together? Am I secretly in love with him? Have we hooked up? Made out? Dated!? Held hands!? Hugged!? Well, we might've done the latter two, but in that totally innocent, la-la-la kiddie pg-rated way. Not an ounce of sexual tension there. At ALL.

And I'm not one of those fug, undateable twats either. I have a perfectly reasonable sense of style, I make it a point to shower every day, and I'm not some raging nerd either. No offense if, you know, you're any of those aforementioned things…the world is full of many-a colorful people, I always say…What I mean is that in the looks department, I am perfectly acceptable. 5'4 and a quarter. 112 pounds. Brown hair. Green eyes. Skin a little on the paleish side, which is just about the only real criminal offense, seeing as how I live in California and all. This isn't one of those scenarios where I'm the pathetic loser pining after my gorgeous best friend. Although that would make a hell of a lot more sense, now that you mention it.

My idiot friends have long-since given up on me, too. On many an occasion, I've even hooked up a few of the lesser-dorks with him, and quite successfully might I add. So there's not a whole lot of bitchin' and moanin' on their part anymore, that's for sure.

I've asked myself this too. Don't think I'm blind to good looks. I can appreciate washboard abs just as well as anybody. I've wondered why it is that I have never seen him as the real, studly man that he is. To me, I think he'll always be that fat little porker I used to love hugging and disappearing into. It's definitely come to my attention that there is a fine hunk of man next to me going to perfectly good waste.

Who knows why. Because, if you haven't caught on by now, he's pretty much perfect. Perfect enough without being too nauseatingly perfect. I would try to tell myself that it has to do with his late birthday. It has everything to do with the fact that he is exactly four months younger than me…

…which makes my situation all the more complicated. Go figure.

By all intents and purposes, I should be mooning over Aaron's exquisite derrière like the straight, hormonally charged teenager I am.

I'm going in circles here. I can tell. But it baffles me. Baffles me, I tell ya. Because if Aaron Nottinghem, 17 years and 7 months, is too young for me, exactly 18 years old—

Somebody please explain why I am outrageously infatuated with brother.




Ahem. Younger brother, that is.

Because I'm at my wit's end here.

I forgot to mention that one minor little detail, didn't I? Again, I blame the Alzheimer's. It's happening, I tell ya. When the doctors find out, they'll all be sorry. Mom, and Dad, and you.

So yes.

Almost two years later, Mrs. Nottinghem brought home a tiny bundle of joy that would serve as both my curse and blessing. Better known as Jude Nottinghem.

I remember when she came in through the door, wheeled in by Mr. Nottinghem, holding a small blanket-wrapped bundle in her lap. From the way she cradled and cooed at the thing, I was anticipating some badass stuff to go down. I thought, this baby must be the most magnificent thing to happen!

Turns out that bundle of joy was just about the ugliest damn thing I ever laid eyes one. Had the hospital mistakenly given her a rat baby? Or a raisin, or something! Bottom line, it was heinous. I'm not gonna lie, I've seen better looking possums in my backyard.

Mrs. Nottinghem didn't think so, because she all but mowed us over with her wheelchair when Aaron and I tried to throw the alien prune out of her lap. That marked the start of Mama-bear Nottinghem's protective reign over her favorite little treasure. You'll notice that there's not too much mention of Jude in our childhood. This, folks, is intentional.

Jude was a quiet child. Once in a blue moon he'd grace us with his presence…if you can call it that. Truth be told, his presence was more or less negligible. Any other time he could be found sitting in front of the television screen or proudly perched on Mama-bear's lap. Aaron was always too big for that, the poor bastard. It might explain why Christmas is his favorite time of the year.

But back to Jude. He never talked much. Even now, he doesn't say much. Most days he can be found in his room, plucking away at his Strat. That's not to say he's one of those gangly, friendless twats. The quiet, awkward child had grown up to be a still quiet guy. But now when he talks, he makes sure that it counts.

He's such a departure from Aaron that most of his friends don't know he even exists.

But I do. I see him around at school. It's so much more rewarding to see him at his house, but it's not like I'm over there every day. Aaron has had girlfriends, and I've even had a few boyfriends here and there. So we do maintain rather separate lives.

Especially these days, what with college and stuff, I haven't been around there as much.

Okay truthfully, I don't give two shits about college. I practically have my whole life figured out, so there isn't much to worry about in terms of college.

The reason I haven't been around as much is that things have changed. Somehow, I ended up spending less time in Aaron's room and more time in Jude's. We may have known each other for years, but the whole not-talking thing really didn't do much in terms of developing a relationship.

Nowadays, Aaron and I don't really hang around at his house. We're mostly hanging out at the movies or hitting some random party. The only time I ever really go to his house anymore is to see Jude.

Which I will honestly acknowledge is pretty damn creepy—on my part, anyway. I'm a senior in high school. The big dogs, woof woof. You know.

So there is me, a senior. Aaron is a senior.

And Jude is…


Ah, hell.

He's a freshman, okay? I know, I know. It's definitely illegal in at least 48 states in the US of A. But I have no control over these things. I didn't wake up one morning and decide hey! Being a cougar looks like loads of fun!

Do I even qualify as a cougar? Isn't there an age requirement or something? I'm almost certain you have to be at least, like, 35. Not that I'm looking to be a cougar or anything, because that shit is just dumb.

Never mind that. I know there's some kind of rule for this type of thing. What was that rule again? Half-your-age-plus-seven? You aren't supposed to go below that, right? So let's see, if I'm 18, half of that is 9. Crap, I'm going to need a calculator for this. Okay, 9 + 7 is...16…

…and he is 15 and a half. I mean, should I round up? Then he would be 16. I'm pretty sure the people that made this equation would have wanted me to round up.

Or should I not? Is that against the rules? Is there a rule book for this thing? I don't even remember where I heard it from…

What's half a year, anyway? Right? That should be tolerable enough, right? Maybe?

Ah, Shit.

There has to be some way I can rationalize this ridiculousness.

You know what, I am done with birthdays, numbers, equations, and math.

Here is more living proof that math was invented by the devil.