Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kent Thomas checked his watch: nearly a quarter to six. He'd been sitting in his backyard for the past hour or so, watching sizable flocks of birds, mainly finches and sparrows, feeding from feeders of varying design and seed selection spread across the yard. Having by now exhausted this hobby of his for the day, he made one last glance at the numbers of birds of each species he'd recorded in the notepad sitting in his lap, and then closed the spring-bound book and stuffed it in his pocket as he made his way back inside the house. On his crutches.

Once there, the fifteen-year-old found that the smell of his mother's Thanksgiving cooking was permeating the air, and the overly loud football game his father was watching on the plasma television in the living room was sending waves of sound pulsating through the building. The family golden retrievers, seven-year-old Beamer and three-year-old Shelby, were sitting beside his father and begging to play fetch with mother, respectively, while their budgerigar parakeets, Chip (green) and Dale (blue) were noisily chirping away in their cage set against the kitchen's western wall. In other words, all was as it had been since Kent had left to enjoy the wildlife flying in and out of the yard an hour ago; the primary difference, and the thing that was making him both nervous and excited, was that his girlfriend and her father would soon be there to join them.

He almost couldn't hear it over the noise of the cheering crowd in Dallas echoing through the speakers, but Kent recognized the ringing phone when he heard it. Thinking—nay, hoping—that it was Holly calling to inform him of her impending arrival at his home, he was naturally quick to run over and pick up the phone. On his crutches. He'd managed to become quite fast on something that was supposed to slow him down and protect him from injuring himself again, but on the other end of the scale, perhaps it was good that he'd become so fast on this temporary hindrance.

With his long legs (only one of which was fully functional at the moment), part of an overall tall and gangly body, less muscular than his father, Rod, but with the same blue eyes and brown hair, Kent really was fast, and because of this attribute he inadvertently blocked his blonde mother, Gina, from answering the call, which was probably for the best anyway, considering that she had a massive stockpile of food being prepared and the person on the other hand likely wished to speak to him.

"Sorry," he said to Gina after preventing her from answering the kitchen phone. She nodded with understanding while he put the device to the right side of his head and walked over to a quieter corner of the house. On his crutches. "Hello?"

"Hello, Bruce."

Kent sighed with equal parts shock and confusion. "Samara?" Rod's attention was briefly diverted away from the Jets-Cowboys game when he heard this name, as indicated by the turning of his head in Kent's direction. Like many things about his father, this annoyed Kent, and the son walked further away, to the easternmost end of the building, to avoid those prying eyes and ears. "How did you get this number?"

"Now why would you want to ruin the mystery and ask a question like that?"

"Did you want to talk to Holly?" Kent said. "Because she's not here yet."

"Fuck her," Samara replied. "No, that wasn't a shot against her, Bruce; I mean that literally: fuck her, because you're the first man to ever be given that opportunity, and you should take full advantage."

"Why are you calling?" he grumbled. "And whatever it is, couldn't it wait? It's Thanksgiving! Shouldn't you be with your family right now?"

"Shouldn't you?"

"You called me!"

"Irrelevant. There are more serious matters at hand."

"Really? Like what?"

"Like, not five minutes ago, Cameron and I finally consummated our relationship."

Momentarily, Kent was perturbed into silence by this revelation, but once he remembered the general lack of relevance of Samara in his day-to-day life a second later, he could bring himself to reply. "So," he said, "I guess this means you're not a virgin anymore, huh?"

"Indeed."

"And why exactly are you telling me this?"

"You know why, Bruce."

"Would it kill you to refer to us by our real names for once?"

"I rather think it would kill me not to."

Kent sighed. "Again I ask, why are you—"

"Because you're the one to whom Claire broke the news of her broken hymen," she said, a phrasing that made Kent much more uncomfortable than the situation ever required, "and as such, you're the one that was able to learn the news in its freshest, most naked state. A state that, it should be noted, I myself am still in."

"Did not need to know that, Samara."

"No, but enjoy the mental visual, you know it's all you'll ever get."

"Just because Claire told me about losing her virginity doesn't mean you have to!"

"Were you listening, Bruce?"

"Stop calling me that!"

"Apparently not. She and Jimmy were both virgins," Samara reminded him, "the possibility of his cheating notwithstanding. Cameron, however, was not, which means you can tell her my first time was with someone with experience. In other words, far less awkward and much more satisfying."

"Or, you could tell her yourself." He resisted the urge to say any more and dig himself deeper into this humiliating conversation, but failed. "You're right, though."

"Do tell!"

"Do you honestly believe I'm going to gossip to you about what Claire told me?" Kent said, and in the middle of saying this, realized what was really going on here. "Wait a minute. Is that what this about? Claire? You and your petty rivalry with her?"

"Come on, admit it. I did better than her."

"Is that why you finally had sex? Just to bring yourself up to her level?"

"Past it, actually. You haven't been listening, Bruce!"

"That's horrible!"

"That's your opinion."

"I barely know Cameron," Kent said, "but something tells me he wasn't too keen about going through with all this." After a brief pause, he continued: "And, seriously Samara, on Thanksgiving? Isn't your whole family there?"

"Yeah, from New York. But I really don't think you can blame Cameron for succumbing, do you? The allure of my figure is quite widely known. And besides, now he knows destroying all that Maroon 5 merchandise was worth it."

"There's obviously a lot more to Claire and Jimmy's relationship that you seem to have missed. This has not been a happy time for either of them."

"Enlighten me."

"No." Then the doorbell rang. "Holly's here. I'll see you next week at school, okay?"

"Don't forget to wear a condom."

Kent let out an annoyed grunt and terminated the connection. He smiled, not only at the cut-off contact with Samara but also at the presence of his newly arrived girlfriend—and her strangely familiar blond, blue-eyed father—standing in the doorway he opened for them upon setting the phone down on a bookshelf. After Holly hugged him, an act that had always been awkward on his crutches but that they had perfected as the month and their relationship progressed, he called to his parents and shook Mr. Snow's hand.

"So you must be Kent," the man, who appeared to be somewhere in his mid- to late forties, said in a full Australian accent. "I'm Mark."

"Nice to meet you," Kent said as he made way for their guests—only for that way to be somewhat blocked by the humorously overprotective retrievers barking at them while running over to see them. When it became apparent that these people posed them no harm, Beamer and Shelby instead took to smelling the father and daughter, the older male Beamer even going so far as to stick his nose right between Holly's legs.

"Hello!" Holly said with a pleasantly surprised gasp and in the same accent as her father. She turned to Kent with an embarrassed smile and said, "I love dogs," as she pet that one on his head. "I sometimes wish Dad and I had one of our own. What's his name?"

"Beamer," Mark answered. Looking at the smaller female one placing a soggy tennis ball at his feet, he added: "And this one's Shelby."

"How'd you know?" Kent said just as his parents were entering the aptly named family room, which had a second television sitting in the middle of a large bookshelf, the same one upon which the kitchen phone had been placed, and another sofa facing the west so as to watch said TV.

"Did you get a look at their tags?" Holly said as she examined one of Beamer's (each dog each had several). "Wow, good eye."

"Actually, I'm their vet," Mark explained, a literally jaw-dropping fact for Holly and Kent. "And I never forget an animal's face." ("So that's why you look familiar!" Kent said.) He turned to greet Rod and Gina, and the three of them exchanged greetings well enough for Kent to avoid getting worried for at least a little while. "So it seems our kids are dating," he said nonchalantly.

"Well, we haven't technically gone out on a date yet," Holly said.

"Mostly on account of not being able to drive yet," Kent said. "And it would just be weird to take the bus everywhere or have our parents or our friends drive us around."

"I don't think that last part really needed explanation, Kent," Rod said. "Would you like a beer, Mark?"

"Of course," Mark replied. "I'm an Aussie, mate."

With the departure of their fathers into the kitchen, Holly and Kent then became the focus of Gina's attention. "So," she said, "you two?"

"I still have a hard time believing it sometimes," Kent remarked. "In the good way, of course."

"You're Claire Zielinski's best friend, right?" she asked Holly.

"Mom," Kent said to prevent her from going any further into the sore subject of Claire. "…When will dinner be ready? I think we're all starved."

"Not too much longer," Gina said, acknowledging what her son had obviously been trying to do with a bothered look. "Would you like something to drink, Holly? We have sodas in the garage out back."

"I don't drink them," Kent shrugged.

"I'm fine," Holly said, her plain American accent making an unexpected return.

"What happened to your accent?" Gina simply decided to ask.

"It goes in and out," Holly answered. "But I can control it a little. If I put my mind to it, I could probably teach myself to stick to one and only one."

"But I like your Aussie accent," Kent said.

"And I like that you like it."

"I like you just the way you are."

"Billy Joel, my boyfriend," Holly quipped to Gina, who nodded and smiled awkwardly at the joke. "Or were you going more for a Timbaland vibe here?"

At this, Gina instead raised an eyebrow. "Who the hell is Timbaland?"

"You tell her," Holly suggested to Kent. "You're the Billboard chart nut here."

Kent nodded at Holly and turned to Gina to explain, but rethought this action a second before actually saying anything. "Do you really want to know?"

"On second thought," Gina said, placing her hands on her hips, "no, I don't think so." And with that declaration, she left them to go check on the forthcoming dinner, whilst making sure to take the phone Kent had placed on the crutch of the bookshelf back into the kitchen with her as she did.

Now alone, at least within the room, Holly and Kent returned their focus to each other (signifying this with a kiss), and took a seat beside one another on the sofa facing the TV.

"So what's new?" Holly said.

"Did you know Samara is crazy?" Kent replied as he rested his crutches on the right arm of the sofa and his injured foot on the coffee table.

"That's not news."

"No, but what happened in the minutes before you and your dad got here is."

"Oh?"

"She called."

"How did she get your number?"

Kent shrugged. "Anyway, she apparently decided that I should be the first one to know that she's no longer a virgin just because I'm the first one Claire told, too."

"So she and Cameron—"

"Uh-huh," Kent said with a nod.

"She usually picks up on things before everyone else," Holly said with the same sense of confusion her boyfriend had. "Didn't she ever find out that Claire only had sex because Jimmy tricked her into doing it? And that that's why the two of them are taking some time off?" Holly shook her head, ashamed of both her best friend's relationship status and of Samara's behavior. "Some people."

Kent put his hand on her shoulder, and then she took his hand in hers. "Claire and Jimmy should just break up," he said. "It's just stupid for them to drag it on like this. Especially after—"

"Let's not talk about that," Holly stopped him. She sighed, and caressed his right thigh while he ran that same hand through her warm brown hair and looked into her aquamarine eyes. Not a minute later, this evolved into full-blown kissing, but it ended just as quickly as it began, though both of them expected a continuation later this evening as a way of burning off some of the many calories this Thanksgiving dinner was sure to provide.