(For the complete first chapter of Volume 2, see "Brennett, Vol. 2, located on my profile)
I started drinking coffee on my fifteenth birthday. My dad warned me that it was an acquired taste, but I proved him wrong and liked it right away. I've always said that I have a non-discriminatory palette. At first I took my coffee every morning with a cup of skim milk and three scoops of sugar, but the summer before senior year, I started having it black, and three times a day.
My coffee drinking habit was just that; a habit. I've gone days without coffee and nothing has happened to me. I'm assuming that means I was never addicted to caffeine. I don't think I've ever been addicted to anything. Addictive personalities are hereditary; We Rousseau men have only the best blood. So, I guess I was born immune to the burden of addiction.
I started dating Brenna around the same time I started drinking coffee, which is funny because Brenna was similar to coffee in a lot of ways. Like coffee, I liked her right away. She gave me energy, she motivated me, and although the relationship ultimately changed; the cream and sugar were taken away; my basic admiration of her remained no matter what happened. I could count on her presence in my life. She was consistent. I mean, obviously I could live without her if I wanted to, but it was nice knowing she was there.
"Will you take a cup of coffee if I bring you one, Ben?" Her mother asked sweetly, as I sat at their dining room table.
"Of course I will, Rebecca," I said warmly, and then looked at her; my girlfriend; the most important person in my life; sitting next to me. She was so perfect. She was so kind and understanding. She was tracing the stripes on the silk table cloth with her index finger, and I reached out and grabbed her hand. She smiled but didn't look up at me. "Are you going to have any?" I asked her.
"I'm going on a cleanse…" She answered thoughtfully. "I mean, I think I'm going to, I haven't decided yet."
"Is this one of those juice cleanses I've read about?" My mother asked from across the table. "You're a little young to be worrying about your weight. Honey, you're beautiful. It's not worth it."
"Thank you for the compliment, Vera. And no…it's not about weight. I just feel like it's a good time to make a change." She subtly pulled her hand away from me. "I'm going to eliminate everything that's bad for me: Caffeine, red meat, non-organic vegetables, anything with nitrates...."
"You have time to worry about your health too…" My mom reasoned. "Eat chocolate and potato chips while you still can. Trust me, you won't be able to for long."
"I'll still eat those things, but they'll have to be organic," Brenna explained. "And they'll have to be moderated."
My mother nodded. "You know…" She finally said. "I admire you, Brenna."
Brenna smiled that smug, tight-lipped smile of hers. "Well…thank you."
I was smiling too. "You know, I was thinking that we should raise our kids on an organic diet. But, I mean, maybe in the future they will have figured out a way for the whole world to eat organically. Maybe chemicals and preservatives will be a thing of the past."
"I doubt that will happen, Bennett," My mother jumped in. "Not enough people care for the cause."
"Well, it doesn't matter," Brenna beamed. "Our kids will be healthy. Other parents can poison their children, like every generation since industrialization has been poisoned…but my kids will have the best."
"You think about it much more than I ever did,"
"Vera, you know me well enough by now to know that I think about everything more than anyone does…" Brenna tucked her wrist under her chin. "It's a curse."
My mother lifted her eyebrows, which had been waxed to perfection just that morning, and chuckled in amusement. "You're precious, Brenna-Rose. Just precious…"
I was starring at my girlfriend. Her hair was still curled from our performance earlier that night. She'd wiped off her heavy stage make-up in the car on the way home, and her skin was glowing. She had a very doll-like appearance to her. "I love you," I told her, just because I felt like saying it.
Brenna turned her head, and looked me in the eye, probably for the first time since the show. I grinned, and she smiled back, her eyes quickly falling to the floor. "I love you too."
"I never dated in high school either," My mom said, although we'd both heard her say it before. "I never had the time. I don't know how you two manage to do it all."
Suddenly, the screen door behind her slid open. Our fathers jumped into the dining room from the patio, each of them holding a cigar butt in between their fingers.
"These are fine things!" My dad announced, holding his butt up in the air.
"Boys will be boys," My mom whispered playfully to Brenna, who nodded understandingly. The older men moved through the room and disappeared to somewhere else in the house.
Rebecca passed them on her way back in. She had a tray of cupcakes, and another tray that held our coffee cups. She placed the cupcakes on the table, then handed my mom and I our coffee. I blew into mine, waiting for the right time to sip, and watched my mother shoveling sugar into her own. Brenna took a cupcake and stuck her pinky into the frosting, licking it off daintily and carefully.
"These two are contemplating the health of their future children," My mother filled Rebecca in.
"That's what I said!" My mother cried enthusiastically.
I looked lovingly at Brenna, who had taken her hand away from the cupcake and had started fidgeting with the silver charm bracelet I'd given her for her birthday last July. The clasp had just broken off in her hand, but she didn't seem to react.
I said, "You broke it."
"Crap," She said quietly.
"Broke what?" My mom asked.
"Her bracelet," I informed them. Brenna had taken it off and was cradling it in her palm, just staring at it.
"Here, let me see," Her mom reached across the table and Brenna handed her the chain. Her mom examined it carefully.
"Honey, there are some jewelry pliers in my medicine cabinet. You just need to tighten the link around the clasp." She handed the bracelet back to Brenna.
I stood up. "I'll help you do it!" I told her. I sort of couldn't stand that the bracelet was broken. Why had I given her something so non-durable?
"Right now…?" She asked, flustered.
"Yeah, so we don't forget about it. Come on," I marched out of the dining room, and she hesitantly followed.
When we got to the stairs, she pushed ahead of me and led me upstairs and through the master suite. In the bathroom, she rummaged through her mothers stuff until she found the jewelry repair kit; in a small, velvet box, in the cabinet.
"I can help you if you need it," I reminded her.
Then, she just mumbled, "Screw you," Wow. I'd forgotten how stubborn she could be. I nervously watched over her shoulder; watched her face in the mirror. She was very independent, I remembered. Most women liked to assert their independence by completing tasks without the help of a man. At least, that's what I'd read.
"Look, I'm sorry that the clasp was so crappy." I told her, because I thought maybe it was something I should take responsibility for.
She let out a single chuckle, and then tossed the pliers into the sink basin. I don't know why. The bracelet wasn't fixed yet. She spun around, and leaned against the counter. She just sort of stared at me, waiting for something. So, I went in for a kiss. She shoved me away.
"What?" Okay, now I was confused.
"What…?" She barked. "You're going to ask me what!?"
"I'm sorry…" My eyes darted back and forth. What was I supposed to do?
"You're down there acting like nothing's wrong!"
"Okay…" I crossed my arms. I was starting to get really annoyed. "You're acting like nothing's wrong. I thought that meant…that nothing was wrong."
"Really…?" She laughed...kind of evilly. It was intimidating. I stepped away from her.
"Well…you invited me over. Excuse me if I thought that meant you wanted me here."
"My parents invited your parents over."
"Well, isn't it still your fault?" I reasonably asked her. "I mean, if you really hated me, you would've told them, and they wouldn't have invited us."
"I can't just tell them, Bennett." She hissed. "You've humiliated me enough…"
"I'm sorry," I said flatly. I couldn't get too passionate about the apology because it was kind of worn out at this point. I didn't have to sound sincere, because with the number of times as she heard it before we went on stage that night. She had to believe by now that I really meant it. "I made a mistake. I got confused. I'm sorry."
"Oh my god..." She groaned, grabbing her head.
"You told me you understood last week. Do you remember that?" I asked. "You and I…we said we'd work through it."
"I thought we could when I thought you were being honest…I thought you were owning up to everything."
"Okay…so this is me owning up for real," I was being so strong. "This is me admitting that I hooked up with Nolan Hayden. Now, if that's all you wanted…"
She shook her head, closing her eyes tightly. She started to whimper.
"Are you really gay?" She choked. "Or do you just hate me that much?"
"Hey…" She was so upset. I couldn't stand it. I gently wrapped her in my arms, petting her soft head of curls. "I love you." I really meant it.
No, I really wasn't. "I was scared of him," And that was it, wasn't it? "He cornered me…things got out of hand."
She'd collected herself. She backed away from me, and crossed her arms. "You told me it was Vanessa."
"I was scared of you…" I told her. "I was scared of what you'd think of me. But it's over. Things are going to get better now. I promise."
"I don't trust you," She told me simply.
I touched her shoulder. I thought that maybe all she needed was to think that I understood how she felt. "Take some time. I get it. You need time."