Chapter Ten!

Shopping Cart Courtship


Knock, knock, knock.

I stood outside of Lyle's door uncomfortably, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. It was half past eleven, meaning that my best friend would still probably be in bed. There were no shades in Lyle's room—just a slip of chiffon that doubled as a curtain—so that the sun shone in almost blindingly through the window. Even despite that though, Lyle was a pretty solid sleeper. Only an earthquake the size of Haiti's could wake him up from his slumber.

After a minute without answer, I jabbed at the doorbell at least a half dozen times before the mahogany door swung upon and my half-naked best friend greeted me with a hearty, "Fuck you." His hair was disheveled and he was looking at me through crusty, seemingly closed eyes. I playfully pinched the belly fat he was accustomed to gaining in the off-season before baseball began and promptly let myself in.

Lyle's house was expansive and large—an absolute necessity when it came to the Hawthorne family. Not because they were an extravagant bunch, but because they needed the space to shelter all six of the Hawthorne siblings. Lyle, being the oldest and the only male amongst the group, was extremely low-maintenance and the obvious favorite with his parents. His father was away often for work and so Lyle had grown up without a lot of male influence. Although the blonde was far from being a girl, he still sometimes let characteristics of his female upbringing slip through.

I peered around curiously, looking for signs of life but finding next to none.

"Which sister are you looking for?" Lyle asked, appraising the bag of hair accessories I had in one hand and the practically life-sized teddy bear I had in the other. I smelled as if I had been dunked and marinated inside a medley of clashing body sprays. Walking out of Bath and Body Works, my nose was close to breathing fire and I was sneezing up a storm. But still, it was all going to be worth it.

"Carly," I answered, setting my things down on the coffee table. The second oldest at 13, Carly was like the female version of Lyle except with longer hair and, of course, a vagina. She was also a self-proclaimed romance expert and therefore my best option when it advice.

I had briefly tinkered with the idea of asking Gabe for some help. But while my best friend was experienced in all aspects of bedroom courtship, he wasn't so much ideal when it came to relationships outside of sex. True, Oakley Cartwright wasn't the only girl I've ever wanted to bang, but she was the only one I've ever wanted to wake up to in the morning. And as much of a pussy as this is going to make me sound, I could forgo the sex if it meant being able to hold her hand whenever I damned well pleased.

Running a hand through my hair, I asked Lyle, "Where is she?"

The blonde pulled on sweatshirt he had found in the coat closet down the hall. Shrugging, he replied, "In the basement with her friends. They're finishing up their science fair project"

"Good," I said, making a beeline for the stairs. I had made it all of two steps before Lyle's strong grip pulled me back.

"She says we're not allowed down there."

"We?" I raised an eyebrow.

Well," he amended. "She says I'm not allowed down there. Claims I'll be a distraction to her friends and the reason she flunks out of biology and goes on to become a fry cook at McDonald's."

"And what does this have to do with me?"

Lyle deadpanned, "If I'm too pretty to go down there, then you're definitely not allowed."

Fluttering my eyelashes, I asked, "You think I'm pretty?" with a grin.

"I'm not shitting with you, dude. Carly's literally going to lop off your baby maker if you set foot inside the basement."

"But," I burst loudly, "this is a matter of life and death!"

"I highly doubt that, but go on."

I flopped down onto his couch. Breathing a dramatic sign, I exclaimed, "I'm taking Oakley on a date."

"A date?"

"A date."

"To where?" the blonde asked.

"To the grocery store."

He snorted. "Drew, that's not a date. That's running an errand."

"Well she's cooking me dinner afterward."

Through narrowed eyes, Lyle questioned, "Will your mom be there?"

Well, shit. I was hoping he wasn't going to ask that. Feeling like a total loser, I responded with a disheartened, "Yes."

"Well then it's obviously not a date," was Lyle's triumphant reply as he sat down in the love seat across from me. He attempted to comb out his tangled hair with his fingers, but promptly gave up after he realized that he was pulling out more strands than knots.

"Yeah, I know," was my despondent reply.

"Why don't you just grow a pair and tell her how you feel?"

Typical Lyle to think that a straight-forward approach to courtship was going to cut it for any modern-day relationship. The times of honesty being a virtue had passed. Nowadays, it was all about the chase and the exhilaration of a good cat and mouse struggle.

But there was also a part of me that was afraid of hearing Oakley's response to my confession. Nothing in the way she acted around me hinted at anything more than a strictly platonic attraction. I was a beyond good looking individual and she was only human, after all. So I wasn't particularly comfortable with bearing my heart and soul to her, only to be rejected afterward because she didn't feel the same way. Plus, I've only known her for about a week. My feelings were still new and prone to changing. What if she was just a passing phase and I got my heart broken for nothing?

I was too passionate about things, I realized, jumping before I thought about the consequences that would follow. In the off chance that she did like me back and we did become a couple, what then? I didn't have the best track record when it came to keeping girlfriends. The thought of breaking Oakley's heart and having her avoid me afterward hurt just as much as the thought of her rejecting me.

I was conflicted and confused and contemplating being gay as a viable option because understanding a guy was a hell of a whole lot easier than trying to pick apart the female brain.

"Because I don't know how," was my response to Lyle's question. "I've never been one to tell a girl how I really feel. She usually comes to me and I just go along with the relationship."

Lyle's facial expression softened into something entirely feminine, exactly the reason as to why Gabe and I referred to him as the mother of the group. "So is Oakley the first girl you've ever really liked?"

"For longer than a day? Yeah."

"What's this about my Drew Boo liking someone?" a voice called up the stairs. A chorus of giggles followed soon afterward. One by one, Carly and her friends piled into the living room in a storm of blonde hair and glossed lips.

"I thought you were working on your science fair project?" Lyle said accusingly.

The Hawthorne sister shrugged. "I heard Drew's voice and we needed a break anyway." She gave me a flirtatious wink that was entirely joking. Carly thought of me as nothing but a brother but the set of twins behind her, unaware of our almost familial relationship, let off another round of giggles as they jabbed Carly playfully in the ribs. "But you didn't answer my question."

I swept the bag and bear off the table before thrusting them into her arms. "Carly, my dove, I need your help."

She staggered beneath the weight of the bear, quickly transferring her gifts to the brunette twins behind her, and then turned to face me. "Whoever she is," Carly intoned intuitively, "she must be gorgeous."

"Not particularly," I replied. "But she's cute."

"Really cute?"

"Like bunny rabbits in tea cups cute."

Carly whistled. "That's a whole lot of cute."

"Which," I started, wrapping my arm around her shoulders as I shepherded her toward the couch, "is why I need your help in wooing her."

Sitting down, she snorted. "If you want her to like you, then just take off your pants in front of her."

"If that had worked the first time, then do you really think that I'd be asking you for advice right now? And besides—"

"Woah, woah, woah," Carly interrupted., holding her hands up for emphasis. She gave them a slight push for every time she had said the word 'woah'.

"Yeah," Lyle interjected. "You can't just skate past that sort of shit and expect us to go along with it."

I felt my cheeks color slightly. "It's not that important."

"You mean she saw your package and you still haven't tapped that?"

"You know," I pointed out like a nag, "for a thirteen year old, you sure do have crotch mouth."

The blonde could only shrug. Carly had never been one for sugar-coating what was on her mind. She didn't have a mental filter meaning that whatever she thought in her brain was quickly funneled out of her mouth without so much as a passing concern as to whether or not it was an appropriate thing to say out loud. "So I watch a lot of PG-13 movies. It's legal."

"Which is why, my dove, I came to you for help, seeing as how you're a total romantic comedy buff and all."

"Ohhh," the twins chimed in, "we want to help too!" and dragged me down the stairs in a fashion similar to that of sirens dragging sailors down into the water towards their death.

Although taking relationship advice from a couple of prepubescent teenagers could never lead to anything good, they were unrivaled and so therefore the best option I had. And so it was with extreme trepidation and hesitance that I agreed to their offer, not knowing what I had signed up for when I had metaphorically penned my name onto the sign-up sheet for Carly's Crash Course in Romance.

Several hours past in the no longer so enjoyable comforts of the Hawthorne family basement. Carly was playing and replaying several snippets from movies that made no fucking sense and had the worst fucking endings. Take One Day for example, where there's a guy and girl who meet July 15th of every year and when they finally do become a couple, the girl gets hit by a trash truck. And then there was Nicholas Sparks and his obsession with terminal diseases like that one chick from The Notebook who ended up with Alzheimers, and then the other one in A Walk to Remember who died of cancer at 18. But I suppose that last one wasn't so bad, seeing as how she didn't die a virgin at least.

By three o'clock, I was none the wiser and ready to claw my eyes out.

Lyle, my ex-best friend who had forgone suffering through those movies with me for sleep, had woken up just in time to see me off on my date. "If all else fails," he said in a groggy but smug voice, "just wink at her and smile. Bitches love it when you wink and smile at them."

Oakley didn't look particularly annoyed when I picked her up nearly ten minutes late. I wasn't sure whether to be thankful or concerned—thankful because she was chill enough to not let my inherent tardiness affect her, or concerned that she didn't like me enough to care that I was late. And even though I knew this wasn't exactly a date, I was still kind of irked that she was dressed in her usual cardigan and jeans. Her red hair was kept down and smelled lightly of apples so at least I knew she had showered beforehand.

"You ready?" I asked, opening the car door for her like a gentleman. She gave me a light smile that may or may not have made my heart go pitter-patter.

"Yup. I hope your mom likes berry-glazed blue cheese stake. My uncle John says it's my best dish ever."

I snorted as I started the ignition. "After eighteen years of nothing but fast-food and take-out, my mom'll eat anything home cooked and edible." At this point, football and baseball were the only things stopping me from becoming a land-based whale.

"Well in any case, can you drop me off at Macy's so that I can pick her up a present? I feel bad going to your house empty-handed on her birthday and all." She had a slightly guilty look on her face and was chewing on her bottom lip in a manner that made me want to ravage her.

"Why?" I asked. "Isn't it enough that you're cooking her dinner?"

"Well," Oakley pointed out sagely, "you only turn 35 once."

"Oakley, my mom's been turning 35 for the past six years now."

The redhead laughed, a hearty grin stretching wide across her pixie face. The sound kept running through my mind the entire eight minutes it took to reach Safeway. From her pocket, Oakley pulled out a long list of ingredients that was going to cost me a pretty penny. I didn't really mind though, seeing as how it was the same amount of money I was likely to spend on her if we were on an actual date. And either way, I got to spend alone time with Oakley, right?

"Okay," she murmured, more so to herself than anything else. "First on the list are the berries—raspberries, blue berries, strawberries and black berries." She swiftly grabbed a cart and made her way toward the fruit and produce section. Expertly, she picked up and selected cartridges with only the best fruits of the bunch. Her eyes were trained to pick even the minutest of details that indicated whether a singular berry was either rotten or ripe.

"You sure look like you know what you're doing."

"My dad travels a lot. It was starve to death or learn how to cook."

"And where did you learn?"

Oakley shrugged, "The Food Network. Don't tell anyone, but I aspire to become the next Paula Deen."

"Isn't Paula Deen the one that has type 2 diabetes?"

She waved me off, "Details" and meandered quickly toward the meat counter.

Following behind her, I grabbed as many snack items as I could find off the shelves so that, by the time she turned around, she couldn't see anything but my arms wrapped around an assortment of chips, cookies, and jumbo marshmallow bags.

"Drew," Oakley admonished, taking half of my load and stocking them back onto their respective shelves. "Last time I checked, junk food was not on the list."

"Screw the list, it's my money," I whined, waving my wallet in her face.

The redhead scoffed. "Trust me, Drew, you could do without the extra weight."

I felt my eyes widen against my own will. "Oakley, are you call me fat?"

She giggled and replied, "Well I never said you were skinny" before stalking off toward the frozen food section with the shopping car in tow.

"Whatever," I winked, as per Lyle's advice, "I know I've got a hot bod" and made a grab toward the french fries. I was denied by the stinging slap of Oakley's hand and I resisted the urge to pout like an immature child.

"I'm surprised your ego isn't it's own state," she said, probably thinking herself witty.

I just merely winked again.

Playfully, Oakley pressed a finger to my eyelid. "What's wrong with your eye?" she asked, a small smile on her face. She was close enough so that I could feel her breath on my cheeks and as she retreated her hand, my arm snatched it back. It was an impulse move and one that I could hardly explain.

And as I was leaning in closer for a kiss, all I could think about was how fast my heart was beating and how I wished I had picked a place with a better view than in front of the frozen peas.

Author's Note: So I've been gone a month now and FP still hasn't fixed their crappy HTML box? For fucks sakes. In any case, sorry for the unintentional hiatus. My laptop charger broke and it took nearly two weeks for the company to ship me my new one. While I was gone, I was becoming a hockey fan (let's go Canes!) and rooting for the Giants in the playoffs (dat hail mary doe). On another side note, Jeff Skinner's dimples are my muse.

Also, thank you all so fucking much for helping me reach 100+ reviews! You have no idea how happy I am right now to see my baby reach such a milestone. Sadly, Money Shot is going to be coming to an end a couple chapters from now but hopefully you'll be able to stick around for any and all new stories I may or may not be posting soon. Once again, thank you all for being beautiful and lovely and alkfjalfnsgkjsb I can't even handle my emotions right now. I'm going to go cry some more now.