note: these characters are
mine. all mine. so please don't take them from me. like
you'd want to, but still.
My Arranged Life
people believe that arranged marriages are a thing of the past, gone with
corsets and foot-binding. But, I
guess, these people have never met my parents.
All my life, I've known that I wasn't going to get to choose whom I
married, and I guess I never really thought anything of it.
My parents' marriage had been arranged, and they had turned out
completely happy. Besides, I
hadn't found anyone worth defying my parents yet.
But when I was given the name of my future husband, and told that he
and his brother would soon be moving in with us, things changed.
guess I should start by explaining my parents.
Bob McDowell married Betty Rice decades ago, continuing the tradition
of their parents' wealth. Dad's
relatives are in oil, Mom's are in steel, and neither have had to
work a day in their lives, but they do. Dad's
an economics professor at our local college, and mom owns a gift store
downtown. They both want my
sister, Elise, and me to turn out normal and unpampered. The only thing that lets people know we're rich is our
house, an old plantation home with a pool, beautiful and unappreciated
gardens, and shrouded by thick woods of rich-smelling trees. Even the house can be a pain, because my parents refuse to
hire a live-in maid. Frannie
comes Tuesdays and Thursdays, and only cleans the general living areas of the
house. Our rooms are our
Elise and I stayed home for college, our parents had always preached the
attributes of the local college, and we knew that they wanted us home while
they could keep us. I graduated
last year, majoring in journalism and literature.
Elise will be a junior this fall, and she's been floundering between
cosmetology and studio art. We're
very different, Elise and I. Elise
is beautiful, small, but filled out well, with straight blonde hair and rosy
cheeks, and I, well, I am too tall and too skinny, with long unruly light
brown hair and a complexion too pale to tan and too dark to be a fairy tale.
I've always envied Elise's angelic looks.
interests are varied too. Neither
of us is stupid or boring, we just don't understand the same things.
I have a passion for politics and literature, while she understands how
things work better, and can create beautiful things with her hands, without
even really trying. She looks up
to me, because I'm older, but I constantly look up to her, because she has
things that I can never have.
now, we're both living at home. Elise
goes to school and I write reviews for the tiny local newspaper, The
Huntsville Digest. I'm not
exactly happy with the way things are, but things have always been this way.
My family somewhat secludes itself from the rest of the town, and
I've only kept in touch with a handful of friends from college.
Elise is better about it than I am; she still goes out every few
weekends, sees movies. She dates
boys, but never seriously, because she knows that she can't choose whom she
will marry. And Mom and Dad go to work and come home, watch the news,
talk to me about current events and to Elise about art, and we all retain a
safe distance from each other.
changes, eventually, and it was our time to change. The Sothersbees died in May, and my parents were gone for
weeks, attending the funeral and making arrangements.
The Sothersbees had been our parents' best friends, although I
hadn't seen them since I was about ten.
It had been a tradition for my parents and the Sothersbees to go on a
vacation together every summer, but this years' trip would never come.
The Sothersbees died in a car accident just outside of their
neighborhood in Manhattan. The
news of their death was shocking, but more shocking was the news that came
with it. The Sothersbees' sons
were going to move in with us, in a month.
my parents got back, they were quiet at dinner.
Elise, we've known the Sothersbees for a long time, and they always agreed
with us about the marriage situation," Dad said, licking his lips nervously.
The marriage situation was what they called our bondage.
"As you know, Chet is Kate's age, and Blake is a year older than
Elise. Chet has grown to be a very level-headed young man, and we
feel that he will make a very good husband for one of you."
Elise and I glanced at each other.
of us?" I finally asked.
yes. Kate, we have decided that
you will marry Chet," Dad said, and I slowly absorbed the news that I'd
been anticipating for years. I
couldn't think of anything that would make sense to say, so I remained
is a very nice boy," Mom added, trying to make things better, I guess.
Elise's blue eyes were large.
she asked, and Dad nodded.
We've already talked to Chet, and he's agreed.
He and Blake will be moving in next week, and the wedding will be next
spring. You'll have plenty of time to get acquainted, and if we see
that you don't suit each other, there's always Elise." Dad smiled, as though he was speaking of a rainbow after a
storm. I shrugged.
I began numbly, "I guess I've known this was coming. May I please be excused?" I asked, and with a nod from Mom,
I cleared my place and headed upstairs to my room. It wasn't long before there was a soft knock on the door.
me," came a soft, fuzzy-voiced whisper, and Elise pushed the door open
slowly and floated into the room. Her
eyes were rimmed with tears. Surprisingly,
mine weren't. "Are you
okay?" she asked.
I guess. I mean, it's not like
this is news. They told us back
in junior high that they were going to choose our husbands," I said.
but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt," she said, tears now rolling
down her porcelain cheeks.
doesn't hurt," I said honestly. "It
feels weird. Like, I graduated
high school, and I graduated college, and now I'm graduating my life and
going off to live another one." I
smiled at her honest empathy. "What
would you do if they told you you had to marry Chet?" I wondered aloud, and
don't know. I guess I'd just
have to accept it," she said.
I shrugged again. She held my
hand, and it surprised me, because we never really did things like that.
know that we're going through the same thing," she said, and I nodded.
I felt her squeeze my hand tightly.
"Do you mind if I sleep in here tonight?" she asked, and I shook my
head. In a few minutes we had
both changed for bed, and climbed into my double bed.
Looking at my sister's face, stained with tears, lying innocently on
the pillow next to mine, I could only think that I had to be strong about
this. Maybe Chet would turn out
to be a good guy. Maybe things
wouldn't be so bad.
week came much too quickly, and my parents did something they rarely did: they
threw a party to welcome Chet and Blake.
You would think that we would throw a catered, extravagant party, but
Mom insisted on making her chicken and wild rice casserole, and Dad tended the
bar. They wanted some kids there,
to make the boys feel welcome, so some of my friends and Elise's attended,
as well as Mom and Dad's work buddies.
The party started at six, and the Sothersbees were to arrive at seven.
found it amazing that, within an hour, things had gotten out of control.
My parents are amazingly laid-back, and about half of the guests were
hammered by six-fifty. Dad pulled me aside and asked me to look out for things and
to make sure that nothing disgusting happened to the rugs.
So while they and Elise enjoyed the party, I helped unruly guests to
the bathroom and towel dried spots on the rugs.
I was in the process of simultaneously downing a martini and sweeping
up broken glass when Elise approached me.
she asked, ecstatic.
what?" I snapped back, and she frowned.
just wanted to know what you think of them," she said, and I rolled my eyes.
haven't had a chance to even see them, Dad's been working me like a
fucking Kathie Lee Gifford sweatshop child," I said bitterly, and as if on
cue, I heard a disgusting retching noise behind me, and turned to see one of
Elise's friends puking into an antique vase.
they've been taking pictures of everyone, for some sort of present they're
making for Mom and Dad or something. It
sounds pretty cool," she smiled.
you do something about your degenerate friends?" I exclaimed, grabbing the
vase. The boy responded by puking
on my shoes.
Brian!" Elise screeched, and she ran towards the kitchen.
I grabbed a Rubbermaid bucket and pushed Brian's head into it,
wincing at the noises he was making. I
felt a tap on my shoulder.
What's this?" Dad asked, and I shrugged.
Brian, Elise's friend," I smiled sarcastically, "We're really
take that bucket outside and empty it in the woods or something.
That's gross," he said distastefully.
I was enjoying it!" I exclaimed, grabbing the bucket and letting
Brian collapse on the ground. Pushing through crowds, I left through the back door, and
passed many more partygoers on the deck.
a voice asked, and I didn't turn.
busy!" I exclaimed.
come on, can't I even get a verb?" the voice asked in a cocky tone, and I
felt the anger I'd held inside all night well inside of me.
I whipped around to see a vaguely familiar man standing there, holding
a beer in one hand and a camera in the other.
He held the camera up and took a picture, and this drove me insane, as
I did not particularly want there to be any evidence of my night as a vomit
the hell is the matter with you?" I shrieked.
"I don't know who you are; I don't know half of Elise's
friends. You know, I have much
more important things to keep track of than who Elise is going to see the new
Keanu Reeves movie with on Friday." I was losing coherency.
I didn't mean anything. Were
you named after the character in Taming of the Shrew?" he laughed,
and I felt my jaw grind into a position it seldom found.
"Here, let me get another picture."
know what?" I said, in an eerily calm voice.
"I'm tired of guys like you thinking that you can just say anything
and do anything and no one will care. I
care," I said, and with that, I emptied the bucket on the front of his
pants. The smell was worse than I
had remembered, and with it came an immediate feeling of remorse.
The group on the deck had become quiet, and I saw Mom and Dad heading
through the crowd. Dad grabbed my
arm, in a manner he hadn't done since I was young.
He dragged me into the house, and the boy followed.
it's no big deal," he was trying to say, but Dad didn't listen.
He dragged me upstairs, and the boy followed, with Elise and Mom close
behind. I guess we were far
enough away for the guests not to hear, because Dad's face looked like it
was ready to explode. And then it did.
the hell is the matter with you?" he was asking me, and I shook my head.
"Dumping vomit on Chet's pants?"
And with a wave of nausea, guilt, and amazement, I realized who the boy
was. I looked up at him.
I- I didn't know!" I stuttered, and Dad let go of my arm.
I dropped to the ground. "Really,
I didn't know that was him," I said, and I turned to Chet who's jaw was
hanging open. "I'm sorry,"
I whimpered, and he knelt beside me.
worry about it," he said, peering into my face with crystal blue eyes.
that's decided," Dad said. "Chet,
I'm sorry to have to change plans, but I feel that Kate cannot marry you.
You may have Elise," he said, walking from the room.
For the first time, I noticed another boy stepping forward, his face
washed with concern. I whipped my
head up and ignored the boys, locking eyes with Elise.
Her face was pale, and strangely serene.
This time my eyes filled with tears.
In one overzealous moment, I had disappointed my parents and my sister,
and embarrassed myself in front of my new brothers.
you okay?" Chet asked, trying to help me up.
I shook him off, overcome with shame.
yes, I'm fine," I said, dazed, limping towards Elise. "Are you . . .?" She
shook her head and I grabbed her and held her tightly.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry . . ." I repeated over and
over, rocking her in my arms. She felt limp, and I could tell that her spirit had been
talk to him in the morning," Chet said slowly, "see if there's anything
I can do." I smiled weakly.
really am sorry, I didn't know, and, well, everything's been going wrong,
worry about it," he repeated. "Hey,
I guess I should introduce myself. I'm
Chet Sothersbee, and this is my brother Blake." Blake stepped forward, thinner and a bit shorter than Chet,
with slightly darker hair and dark brown eyes.
Both boys were tall and thin, but strong-looking, and Chet's sandy
blonde hair and light blue eyes were surprising together.
Both had a glow of innocence in their eyes that I wished I'd noticed before
I dumped vomit on Chet's Dockers.
no use," I sighed. "Dad never
takes things back. He thinks that
that's a sign of weakness." Elise
pulled out of my grip. "Do you
want to sleep in my room tonight?" I asked.
she said softly, shaking her head. It
stung to see her walk, in a trance, to her own room and close the door behind
her. I turned to the boys, trying
to ignore the feeling of nausea creeping up my spine.
so sorry this had to happen on your first night here. I wish I could be a good hostess, but . . ." I shook my
head, and fell onto the ground. Both
boys scrambled to help me. "I'm
fine, I'm fine," I said, "I'm just kinda dizzy.
I'll be okay." I stood
again and dragged myself to my room, where I told them goodnight before
closing the door. I ran to my
bathroom to throw up.
that's how things began between the four of us- Chet and I were no longer
engaged, and now Elise and Chet were. Blake
and I were just bystanders. The
week went by embarrassingly slowly, with Elise sullen and irritable, and Chet
and Blake obviously uncomfortable with our family situation.
I tried to make them feel welcome, but nothing seemed to work, and
every night they went to their rooms early, to read.
One night, after a particularly boring office party, I came home to
find Chet lying on the couch reading an old Shakespeare book I'd bought in
he smiled weakly, and I nodded.
I responded, taking off my coat and sinking into a chair next to him.
was the party?" he asked. I'd
asked he and Blake to come with me, but they'd declined. I tried to smile, making myself laugh.
was horrible. Mrs. Eady, the
advice columnist, gave a speech during which she spit on the entire office.
Mr. Flemming, the weatherman, sprained his ankle and complained about
health insurance for a good hour. And
I walked in on Mr. Gearheart, the conservative columnist, showing his
"family values" to his secretary," I rolled my eyes and my hands flew to
my forehead. "How were things
here? Let me guess, Elise
didn't talk much, Mom and Dad shared a bottle of wine, and you and Blake
decided to 'read.'" He smiled.
sorry things were so bad. And
yeah, they were the usual here," he said.
must suck for you that you got stuck with my mom and dad.
Your parents always seemed cool, at least," I said.
"My parents drive me insane daily."
parents weren't so great," he said shortly, startling me.
There was a short silence before I noticed the book again.
play are you reading?" I asked.
of the Shrew," he laughed, and I blushed.
god, that's not even funny."
what can I say? You inspired me
to catch up on one of my favorite Shakespeare plays," he laughed, and I had
know how sorry I am, right? And
your pants- I really didn't mean to do that," I said.
you did, and I probably deserved it. I'm
sorry; I guess I was just excited about being in a new place.
And just overall obnoxious." I
shook my head.
I'm sorry about how things worked out.
And I feel horrible for Elise," I said, and his eyes widened.
"I mean, not 'cause she has to marry you, just because she has to
get married at all. She's so
young and naive. She's always
been the one to believe in love and Robert Downy, Jr. movies and all that
Robert Downy, Jr. made some good movies!" Chet said mock defensively, and
then grew quiet suddenly. "I
feel horrible about Elise. Like
I'm killing her or something, ending her life prematurely.
But this is what my parents have always wanted, and yours too, so I
guess we can't really do anything."
your parents always tell you that they were going to arrange your marriage?"
I asked curiously.
he answered earnestly, "since me and Blake were in middle school, I guess.
I remember it pretty well: Blake was talking about his teacher getting
married soon, and Mom and Dad just said 'I guess it's time.'
They sat us down and told us all about how their parents had set them
up, and how it's been a tradition and it's for the best.
I never really had any problem with it.
I mean, it would be different if there had been someone that I really
wanted to marry, but I never really met anyone like that."
I nodded, because he was telling me my own life story.
you ever want to run away, and get married like a regular person?" I
whispered, and his eyes locked into mine.
didn't until they told me I was getting married. That was the day before they died," he said, and I felt
sorry." I didn't know what
else to say, so I stopped there. He
shook his head.
worry about it," he assured me. "I
knew it was coming, just like you did. Things
have a way of working out." I
sighed, wishing I could believe his optimistic attitude.
seemed to get better over the next week, I caught her smiling one morning and
the sight was almost shocking.
you okay?" I asked quickly, and she turned to face me.
think I'm on my way," she said.
the sudden change?" I asked nosily, and she shrugged.
dunno. I talked to Blake for a
while about things, and I guess things could be worse. I could be marrying some creep or something.
At least Chet's a good guy," she said, and I smiled.
glad that you see it like that," I said.
"Look, I'm really sorry about how this all happened.
I totally didn't mean to make Dad do that- it wasn't my plan or
anything." She nodded.
know," she said softly. "I
mean, at first I kinda thought that maybe you'd done it just so that you
wouldn't have to get married. But
I thought about it, and I know that you wouldn't have done that to me on
purpose." I walked to her and
hugged her tightly, and this time she hugged me back.
"I'm so scared that things are going to change soon, though. I'm going to have to go away, and I won't be with you
anymore," she whispered, and I shuddered.
scared too. You're leaving me
behind," I said simply, and we both held onto each other for a long time
before I pulled back. Neither of
us was crying, but we were connecting in a way that we hadn't in some time.
afternoon, after a meeting with my parents, Chet gave Elise a beautiful
diamond solitaire ring. My
parents beamed, and then left to go make dinner and watch the news.
so nice, Chet, but you really didn't have to.
It's not like it's exactly a normal situation," she said, and he
shook his head.
the least I could do. And
besides, my friend Anna once said that every girl fantasizes about a diamond
ring from Tiffany's at some point in their life," he grinned. He was right, and I blushed.
thanks," Elise smiled. Blake
walked to the window.
so much land around the house, is there anything out there?" he asked, and I
was surprised that they hadn't been given a tour or something.
there's a few things," I exclaimed, "there's a pool, a lake, a stable
with no horses, a cabin . . . Elise, is there anything else?" I asked, and
she shook her head.
don't go out there too much," she said.
"I used to go out there a lot, in middle school and high school, to
have parties and stuff. But I
haven't been swimming in ages, and God knows how long it's been since
someone's been in the cabin."
I shook my head, "Dad went out there last year to clean it up some.
He said that we should use it more often."
maybe we should," he said.
do you mean?" Elise asked.
what if the four of us had a little camping-cabin weekend thing.
Chill in the cabin, fish, swim, the whole parent trap deal," he
no twins or annoying accents," I added.
We all looked at each other for a moment before smiling.
your parents mind?" Chet asked.
I can't see why they would. We'll
still be at home, technically, and we'll be bonding or whatever," I said.
cool, let's do it then. This
weekend," he said. And that's
how the idea started. That
Friday, once I got back from work and Elise got back from school, we all
packed some stuff and drove out to the cabin in Blake's Jeep.
I hadn't been there since middle school, so it was kind of nostalgic
for me. Everything was smaller
than I remembered, but everything still smelled like pine and had a dusty haze
over it. The first thing Blake
did was plug in his boom box and put in his 311 CD, giving us the perfect
soundtrack to the promising weekend. Elise
and I put our things in one bedroom, and Chet and Blake took the other.
After things were put away, we met in the living room/kitchen area.
what now?" I asked, and Chet smiled, pulling a bag from behind his back.
he answered smugly, approaching Dad's blender.
We all laughed, and Blake, Elise, and I sat on the dusty couch.
we have anything planned other than the mass consumption of alcohol?" Elise
asked Blake, who smile coyly. Blake
and Chet, without jobs or schoolwork, had taken on the responsibility of
planning the weekend.
yeah. The first thing is a king
of getting-to-know-you activity. We
have a few of those, this is the tamest," Blake replied, standing to help
Chet with the drinks.
what's the deal?" Elise giggled. Chet
and Blake returned, bearing glasses filled with green.
deal," Chet began slowly, "is that we all sit, relax, maybe put on some
Dave Matthews, and ask questions, which each of us answers, unless morally
opposed to answering." Elise
and I looked at each other.
but potentially dangerous," I observed, and the boys nodded.
Blake smiled. "Shall we
question: What is the biggest lie you've ever told?" Chet said, sipping
goes first?" Elise asked.
ready," Chet explained.
well, the biggest lie I ever told is when I complimented Elise on her outfit
this afternoon," Blake laughed, and Elise swatted at him with her free hand.
my biggest lie would be when I told my econ. professor that I had cancer so
that I could miss class for a week to go to Panama City," he confessed.
said you had cancer?" Elise's jaw dropped.
I know it's mean and insensitive or whatever, but I did it.
And when I needed a day off any time after that, I needed radiation,"
he said guiltily.
think the biggest lie I've ever told would be when I told Dad that someone
hit my car in a parking lot when I really knocked the mirror off on the
mailbox," Elise smiled, and I laughed.
remember that! I can't believe
he bought that story! And he kept
getting so mad about 'that jerk!'" I remembered.
"Hmmmm, the one that's coming to mind was the time when I ruined
Mom's oriental rug with bleach and I covered it up for months.
That felt awful. Okay, Chet, your turn."
biggest lie I ever told was when I was trying to avoid a speeding ticket. I
told the cop that my sister was in the hospital, having a baby, and I was
hurrying so that I wouldn't miss it. He
ended up escorting me to the hospital, where I went inside and waited 'till
he'd gone, and then left. I
always wondered what would've happened if he's followed me inside and
realized that I'd just been wasting his time," he blushed.
I have the next question," Blake announced.
"What is your favorite band?"
easy," Elise smiled, "Third Eye Blind.
They're so great!" she exclaimed, her face lit up.
or singer?" I asked. "My
favorite singer is Liz Phair, my favorite band is REM."
choices," Chet said. "I'm
going to go with Dave Matthews. The
I guess I'll say Beastie Boys," Blake smirked.
my turn," I said assertively. "Who's
your favorite author- and you can have different ones, like fav novelist,
short-story writer, poet, you know. My
novelist is Zora Neale Hurston, my short-story author is Joyce Carol Oates,
and my poet is e.e. cummings."
novelist is Dickens, short-story author is Eudora Welty, and poet is
Shakespeare," Chet smiled. I
nodded with approval.
god, this one's hard!" Elise exclaimed.
"I really like Jane Austin and Tennyson. But I don't really have a fav short-story writer," she
neither," Blake said thoughtfully. "But
my novelist would be Thomas Mann, and my poet would Petrarch."
I forgot about Petrarch! He's
probably my favorite, too!" she exclaimed.
Elise, do you have a question for us?" Chet asked.
okay, guys, which Spice Girl would you do, Kate, which Spice Girl would you
most want to be?" she asked, and we laughed.
"What? It's a valid
Baby Spice, no contest," Blake said.
"She's so cute!"
Posh Spice. She seems really
fierce," Chet smiled dazedly. I
hit the back of his head.
I'd say that I'd most like to be Posh, but only because Chet would
'do' her," I said. "Just
kidding, of course. I'd want to
be Posh 'cause she's the best dresser."
Elise nodded. "Or maybe
Ginger because she was smart enough to leave!"
well, I think I'd want to be Baby, just 'cause she gets to wear pink a
lot," she smiled. I laughed.
. . ." I looked at her quizzically.
she exclaimed, "I like pink!"
I asked, turning to him. "Question
please?" I realized my glass was empty as he swooped it out of my hand and
took it to be refilled.
he said, refilling the glass, "Alcoholic beverage of choice.
Mine is definitely the cosmopolitan."
Elise exclaimed, handing her empty glass to Chet.
Collins," Blake sighed happily, taking a sip.
of Goldshlaggers," I smiled, taking my glass back.
there. So you're a hard liquor
girl?" Chet smiled.
know what they say . . ." I smiled, "Candy is dandy, but liquor is
stop with the Willie Wonka quotes," he laughed. "And it's your turn."
while we're on the subject, would you rather have sex with an oompa-loompa
or a flying monkey from the Wizard of Oz?"
They all laughed.
sick!" Blake exclaimed. "But
don't know . . . the monkeys are kinda cute . . ." Elise said, deep in
thought, and we all laughed again.
three more batches, we were all good and gone, and my mind was a little bit
Elise giggled, holding a shot glass of tequila. "I never smoked pot."
Blake, Chet, and I looked at each other and all took the shot.
"Really?" she asked, and we laughed.
I never did acid," Chet said, and Blake drank.
"Whoa, boy!" he exclaimed. Blake
once!" he exclaimed. "I never
got drunk and peed on the steps of the state capital."
Chet shot him an evil look and drank.
Elise and I raised our eyebrows and laughed.
never dated anyone my sibling liked," Chet said, and both Blake and Elise
Hardner was hot!" Blake exclaimed, and Elise nodded.
for Joey Long!" she laughed. I
squinted at her.
know. I believe I pointed that
out, didn't I?" I said, and she laughed again.
"Okay, I never threw a party while my parents were out of town, and
got caught when they found a condom under their bed." She blushed, drinking.
never thrown vomit on anyone's pants!" she exclaimed, and I blushed and
drank. Chet patted my back.
never had vomit thrown on my pants," Blake added, and Chet drank.
I think this game is getting old," Elise said, and I nodded.
all drunk, now we're just wasting alcohol!" I said. The boys nodded.
well what are your suggestions?" Chet asked, slurring his words.
tired!" Elise exclaimed, "I want to lie down!"
why don't we draw straws to see who shares beds?" Blake asked
I thought the girls were sleeping together, and the boys were sleeping
together," Chet said, and Blake laughed.
part of the bonding thing. Share
a bed, this isn't some crazy orgy. It
just stimulates those great going to sleep conversations, you know?" he
I'm up for it," Elise said, and Blake cut two toothpicks so that there
were two short straws and two long ones.
Elise pulled one, not looking at it, and Chet and I did the same,
leaving Blake with one in his hand. We
all opened our hands at the same time, wide-eyed.
Then we started laughing. Elise
and I had gotten short straws, Chet and Blake the long ones.
well, maybe tomorrow," Blake said, and we retreated to our rooms.
was so fun!" Elise exclaimed, crawling into bed next to me after we'd both
changed. "The guys are so much
fun, and Blake is so funny!" I
laughed at her.
you construct a sentence without the word 'fun?'" I asked her, and she
stop with the grammar and that stuff, we're supposed to be having fun,
remember?" she exclaimed, and I shook my head and laughed, closing my eyes
and quickly falling asleep.
next day we rolled out of bed at about two, grabbed their swimsuits, and
headed for the lake.
so great being away from mom and dad for once," Elise smiled, holding
Blake's arm as they all walked to the lake.
know what you mean," he agreed. "They
can be pretty severe at times." I
shook my head.
been like that for years. They'll
be great and supportive one second, and huge assholes the next.
Like when I wanted to be a journalist.
At first they were cool with it, and then a week later they begged me
to reconsider and get a more 'financially supportive' career," I
always supported my career interests. But
they really want me to consider modeling. I mean, 'cause I'm so pretty and all," she said
honestly, and we all blushed and smiled.
"What? I'm not
conceited or anything! I just
have self-confidence, which I do not think is a bad thing," she said
just very straightforward about it," Chet smiled.
well, when she's right, she's right," Blake said, grinning at her.
The two of them took off towards the water, and Chet and I set up on
the small private beach. We laid out two beach towels and turned on a portable boom
box, playing Beck. We sat down.
Elise ever bother you, saying stuff like that?" Chet asked, and I shook my
been like that for a while. Really,
she's gotten better. I mean . .
. have you ever seen the TV show 'Daria?'" I asked.
used to be just like Quinn, the annoying, conceited little sister.
But she grew a conscience, and we've been really close ever since,"
I explained. "But she is right.
She's always been the pretty one, Mom and Dad's dream come true,
and I've been the smart one, I guess. In
their eyes." He frowned.
don't really buy that stuff, do you? I
mean, Elise isn't any prettier than you," he exclaimed.
don't know about that . . ." I looked out at Blake and Elise, trying to
trip each other out in the water. "Come
on, let's go," I said sneakily, and we craftily walked to the water and
tripped both of them at once.
festivities continued that night, with more drinks and the game Taboo.
know, it's that thing, that thing, with the people!" Elise was screaming,
and I shrugged. "All the
people, and they sit in a circle and do stuff!"
up," Blake called.
she exclaimed, and I broke out laughing.
God!" I cried. "Congress is
'the thing with the people'? I
should have known!"
well, we officially won," Chet smiled, holding up the scorecard.
for bed!" Blake said mischievously, holding out the straws from the night
before. We all drew, and opened
our hands at the same time. Elise
and Chet were sleeping together, and Blake and I were.
We all laughed nervously and headed upstairs.
what do you think about your sister marrying my brother?" Blake asked, once
we were both in bed, keeping a safe distance from each other, grinning as
though we were having girl talk.
don't know . . . I can't believe Elise is getting married!
She's so young . . . it seems weird to me," I said.
same for me. I guess it'll just
be so different to have him gone. I
mean, we're best friends. Especially
now that we've moved here," Blake said, his eyes wide.
know what you mean. But things
will be okay, I mean, they have to be," I shrugged.
don't think they're . . . doing anything in there, do you?" he asked,
and I jumped.
god, I hope not!" I exclaimed. "You
know, I sometimes forget that they're engaged, and not sister and brother.
It's gotten to where it seems like incest to me."
are not sisters and brothers," Blake laughed smugly.
next morning, the thought of Chet and Elise 'doing something' the night
before haunted me, and the first chance I had, I asked her. She giggled and rolled her eyes.
course not!" she exclaimed. I
raised my eyebrows.
you are engaged! Didn't you even kiss or something?" I asked nosily.
not even. It would be too
weird," she shrugged. I nodded,
happy to hear her answer. Why did
I feel like that? I wondered. And
when I saw Chet that afternoon, helping to pack and carry everything, I felt a
feeling rising in my stomach that wasn't very familiar.
I shrugged it off, returning to the house and to our normal lives.
we went back to the house, it was like we were all best friends.
My family had been miraculously extended and now I had three siblings
to make evil plots with. So the first thing we thought when mom and dad told us they
were leaving town for the weekend was to have a party. We stocked up on liquor, keeping it hidden in me and
Elise's bathroom. Sure, we were
all legal, but mom and dad would have freaked to know that we had so much, and
especially if they found out why. When
they went out of town, we cleaned the house and invited all of our friends.
Then we headed upstairs to move down the bar.
I grabbed a bottle of Goldshlaggers.
Elise warned, "the door stuck on me the other day." I shrugged, and turned to leave, but my way was blocked by
Chet and Blake.
to help!" Blake exclaimed, and they moved towards the cabinet.
Elise followed them in, laughing.
I see what you did to my room, that is so cute!" she exclaimed, and ran to
hug him. He hugged her back,
knocking her into the door, which slammed.
All of our eyes widened, and we all froze, afraid to check the door.
Elise turned and grabbed the handle, which refused to turn.
no!" she exclaimed, looking hysterical.
wait, what did you do the other day when this happened?" I asked.
had to let me out!"
me look at it," Chet said, kneeling to examine the doorknob.
"Do you have a screwdriver?" he asked.
doesn't every girl have one in her bathroom?" Elise said
sarcastically, and he shook his head.
like we're stuck here," he said.
the guests! They'll be here any
second. They can let us out!"
if the door was unlocked they could," I pointed out, and we were all silent.
The doorbell rang, and we sighed.
we're stuck until mom and dad get back tomorrow night?" Elise asked,
surprisingly calm. Chet and I
let's make the best of a bad situation," Blake began. "It could be worse. We
have a toilet. We have a shower
and jacuzzi if we feel the need to bathe.
And . . ." he paused, "We'll never get thirsty!"
He opened up a bottle of Schnapps and began to pour it into the party
cups we'd hidden.
can't be serious!" Chet exclaimed. "You
want us to all be raving drunk while locked in a small bathroom?"
our bathroom's pretty big," Elise pointed out.
"And what else are we going to do?"
this is like, drinking as a sport?" Chet asked.
on, bucko, you're not going to get all after-school special on us, are
you?" Blake asked.
we do have a toilet, so puke can go there and not onto my pants . . ." he
smiled. I hit him immediately.
Blake poured us all cups.
less than an hour, we'd had enough. We
all lay in our huge, empty jacuzzi, Blake and Elise next to each other with
their feet in me and Chet's faces. Blake
and Elise had had more than we'd had, and were falling asleep, Elise's
head on his chest. I smiled, and
turned to Chet.
kids are so cute!" I exclaimed giddily, and he laughed.
are you!" he added, and I blushed.
shut up!" I laughed. He looked
serious, and sad. "What are you
thinking about?" I asked.
parents," he said, and I was silenced.
He smiled. "You don't
have to be like that. We can talk
about them. This isn't a game
of Taboo or anything."
just- I don't know what to say to you," I confessed.
it's good to just listen. You
don't have to say anything," he said, and I nodded.
"Did you know that I hated my parents?" he asked, and I was
shocked. I couldn't find the
words to tell him 'no.' "I
did. They were never home, they
were always off doing some sort of charity ball or on vacation or getting
their hair done or something. When
I was growing up, I used to pretend that they weren't really my parents. That there'd been some sort of mistake. And people always laughed and said, 'Oh you're so lucky,
your parents are loaded,' and all I could think was that I could care less
how rich they were, because they were never there."
He was silent, and for a second I thought that he might cry, but he
didn't. He bit his lip before
going on. "But now they're
dead. Really gone. And I feel so horrible for feeling what I've felt for so
long," he sighed. "It was so
much easier when they weren't around because they didn't want to be . . .
and now they're just not around." He
finished, and I just stared at him.
don't have to say anything, remember?" he smiled, and I hugged him as
tightly as I could. Looking
across at Blake and Elise, I saw Blake gently kiss Elise's head.
I closed my eyes before I could comprehend.
this is an interesting arrangement," Bob McDowell remarked, staring down
into his jacuzzi at his daughters and the boys.
"Wake up!" he exclaimed, and their eyes fluttered open slowly.
They all jumped apart from each other.
"It stinks in here! How
much did you all have to drink?" he asked me, and I shook my head.
"Nevermind. I'm not
getting mad because it's so damn funny.
I had your mom take pictures! You
seem to have gotten a little confused!" he laughed boisterously, and we
looked at each other, blushing.
next weekend, Blake and Chet went away on a fishing trip out of town, at
two need a break from those girls!" he'd exclaimed after witnessing the
jacuzzi situation. They'd
invited us anyway, but we refused politely.
I was never big on fishing anyway.
While they were gone, the house was strangely silent.
I curled up on the big couch with a copy of Shakespeare's "Comedy
of Errors," while Elise stared wistfully out of the window.
so bored without the guys," she said finally.
"I'm almost bored enough that I could read."
don't you find a good book in the shelf and sit down?" I asked, and she
shook her head.
think I'm going to call Tabitha and see if she wants to go shopping.
I need to get all sorts of things for the honeymoon!" she exclaimed,
shaking her head and pacing.
you okay? You seem weird," I
observed, peering at her over my book.
fine," she said quickly, without looking at me. "Okay, I need to shop," she said, quickly leaving the
room and heading for the phone. I
sighed and went back to reading.
was only a week until the wedding. The
entire family was silent at dinner, and afterwards, Chet followed me into the
library while Blake and Elise went upstairs.
I sat down and Chet stared out of the window.
going to be hard," he started, and paused.
married?" I asked, and he frowned.
that, and living so far away from you and Blake. You're my only real friends."
do you mean, living so far away? Where
are you living?" I asked quickly. This
was the first time I'd ever heard of them living outside of the house.
I'd always assumed they would be around.
going to live in our old house in Manhattan," he said, surprised that I'd
not known. I could feel my face get
hot and red, and I struggled to keep calm.
. . . when was this decided?" I asked.
always been implied," he said simply. "My
parents left me and Blake the house, and your parents think it's a good idea
for Elise to go to New York and all." My hands formed small fists that shook.
not fair!" I shouted finally. He
looked up at me surprised, as I jumped up from my chair. "You two can't just leave me and Blake here, by
ourselves! What about us? What are we going to do?
Wait until Mom and Dad decide to marry us off?"
can't do anything about it," he shook his head.
you can't?" I challenged. "You
can't talk to Mom and Dad about this?"
what my parents wanted!" he exclaimed.
I don't give a damn!" I shrieked, and we stared at each other for a long
time before speaking. "It's
just not fair," I stammered, and he turned and left without a word. I sank back into my chair and felt tears slipping down my
face. All I could think about was
after the wedding- sitting in this room with Blake, awkwardly, just waiting for
Mom and Dad to decree our futures. Playing
chess to pass the time. Alienated,
alone. While Chet and Elise
gallivant about Manhattan, attending balls and operas and doing god knows what
and, oh god, what would I do when Elise called to tell me that she's pregnant?
What would my reaction be? "Good
for you"? "Why"? I
couldn't explain any of the feelings inside of my head.
But it was about time that I quit lying to myself.
I was in love with Chet by then. He
was perfect, and he was marrying my sister.
this thought first found it's way into my head, I froze.
I couldn't believe what I'd just discovered- somewhere, deep inside
of me, I'd been slowly growing attached to Chet.
And now it seemed like I could never let go.
He stood there, staring at me. Took
a step towards me.
look, I'm sorry-" he began, but I turned away, sinking into a chair.
about it," I said. "Forget about it, and forget about me." I hated saying those words; I hated the way they felt as they
crept up my throat and into Chet's ears.
He looked slightly dazed and turned and left me alone, sitting deep in a
leather armchair, wondering what I was going to do now.
wasn't much for me to do. I did what I was told- going to fittings for my dress,
watching Elise and Mom make decisions that seemed so unreal- I was a robot for
the whole week. I avoided Chet, and
he avoided me. Blake and I barely
talked. I cut off communications
with everyone, and the night before the wedding, I half expected Elise to knock
on my door, asking if she could crawl into bed with me.
But the knock didn't come, and I realized with a feeling of horror and
disgust that Elise must have noticed what a wonderful guy Chet was, too.
She had fallen in love just as I had.
As I lay in bed, trying to lull myself to sleep, my thoughts returned to
the night the four of us spent in the cabin.
I thought of Blake and I sharing a bed and Chet and Elise sleeping side
by side. Blake and I had shrugged it off- there was no way they would
be doing anything. So much for
that, in less than twenty-four hours, they would be alone together in their
honeymoon suite, doing god knows what . . .
got up from bed and threw up.
took all my strength to stand up there, by the altar, but I did.
They'd wanted a simple wedding, few people, no big entrance, so I stood
by the altar, holding my silly bouquet and waiting.
The wedding was in our rose garden, which was beautiful and in bloom. Mom and Dad sat in the front row, waiting for Elise to appear
and breeze down the aisle, a vision in Vera Wang.
Our family minister stood behind a pulpit, tapping his fingers lightly on
the bible that lay before him. Chet
and Blake stood opposite from me, waiting.
Everyone was waiting, it seemed.
you ready?" Blake asked Chet quietly, and Chet nodded quickly.
I always?" he retorted, his hands firmly clasped behind his back.
just that, I mean, you know this is a big deal," Blake whispered.
I don't think I was supposed to hear what they were saying.
course it's a big deal," Chet shrugged.
His usually clear blue eyes looked red and dry, and his skin was pale.
mean, do you love her?" Blake whispered, and I strained to hear his response.
gotten into you, Blake? What's with the interrogation?" Chet snapped, and Blake
took a step backwards.
take it out on him, Chet," I said unpleasantly, and he turned to me.
now you're going to get on my case, too?
Great, pile it on. It's only my wedding day.
That is, if Elise remembers to show up!" he checked his watch again.
She was now fifteen minutes late.
be here," Blake said softly.
she won't!" I exclaimed, "Maybe she decided she doesn't want to run off
to New York and live in your dead parents' house!
Maybe she wants to stay here with me and our family and maybe she
doesn't even want to get married!" I exclaimed, my face flushing red with
anger and frustration.
Chet replied. "Maybe I don't
really want to get married to her either!"
if you don't want to get married to her, then you really shouldn't, because
she deserves-" Blake began.
shut up, Blake!"
him speak!" I insisted, "She does deserve to be with someone who will treat
her how she deserves!" There was
a moment of silence, and the minister looked absolutely white with terror.
am going to marry Elise, today, as soon as she gets here.
The matter's been closed for a while," Chet said coldly.
"I don't know why you have to act like this, Kate.
You're getting all shrewish on me again."
I smiled sarcastically.
don't know why you have to act like this, Chet. You
act like you . . . like you . . ."
what?" he challenged, and I was puzzled.
I couldn't say what I wanted to say, what I was thinking.
I stood at him, stupefied. "That's
what I thought," he frowned.
is the bride?" the minister finally interrupted their bickering.
"She's rather late, and I do have another wedding to get to."
He looked down at Mom and Dad. They
sorry, I have no idea where she is. Let
me go see if she's still in her room, having some emergency or something,"
Mom said apologetically, slipping away and hurrying to the house.
I followed, shooting Chet a nasty look.
We scoured the house together, but Elise was nowhere to be found.
Mom went back to the wedding to explain the situation to the minister,
and I sat down on our front steps, disregarding my bridesmaid's dress.
I scowled as I threw my bouquet. I
was surprised when Blake stepped forward and caught it.
what's going to happen?" I asked. "Is
the minister leaving?"
Blake said, surprisingly happy. "Your
parents are pretty mad. I can't really tell how Chet's taking it."
don't seem too upset," I observed, and he shook his head.
if they didn't love each other, it didn't really make any sense, did it?"
he said. Then his face sank into a
frown. "But, I wish we knew where
she was. I mean, that she's safe
and all." I nodded.
"I guess I'll go inside, in case she calls."
He disappeared through the door. Suddenly
I stood and began to walk. I picked
up my bouquet where Blake had dropped it and continued my walk, picking flowers
out as I went along. As it finally
sunk in that Chet and Elise were not to be married, my face broke into a wide
smile. I quickened my pace and
looked up to find myself at our cabin in the woods.
I climbed up the stairs quickly and burst inside, laughing to myself.
Then I looked up and saw Elise, in her wedding dress, sitting on the
staircase. She was staring at me
with her worried, tear-stained eyes.
it over? Did they all leave?" she
asked, and I climbed the stairs and sat next to her.
minister's gone. The guests are
leaving." I told her.
about Mom and Dad? How are they
taking it pretty hard. I didn't hear Dad say a word.
Mom's been looking for you frantically," I admitted.
Aren't you at all worried about Chet?" I asked, surprised.
yeah, how's he?" she said defensively.
actually haven't seen him since I left the ceremony to look for you," I
said. "And Blake's fine.
He's taking it pretty well." Elise
smiled weakly. "So what's going
on, Elise? Why are you here hiding
out in the cabin when you should be cutting the cake at the reception?"
She sniffled and rubbed her eyes.
just couldn't do it, Kate," she sighed.
"I couldn't get married to Chet.
I don't love him." Something inside of me sighed with relief.
The truth was out, and I finally felt like I knew everything.
"I'm in love with Blake," she continued, and my jaw dropped.
Blake?" I asked, my sense of omnipotence shattering.
come on Kate, we weren't that discreet," she said, shaking her head.
"Blake and I hit it off from the start.
I never really felt the same way with Chet."
I stopped to think. It
anyway," Elise said softly, "I wouldn't marry someone you were in love
with." I jumped.
what-re you talking about . . .?" I said quickly, but then my head sank and I
looked away. "Okay, so it's true.
But he has no feelings for me."
be so sure," she said, smiling. "Maybe
we should get back. I shouldn't
make Mom worry so much." We stood
up and hugged.
kiddo. Let's go," I said, and
we walked back down to the house together.
really got it from Mom and Dad that night, but when she told them whom she
wanted to marry, they didn't have any objections.
I think that her running out like that really taught them a lesson about
forcing us into things. Instead of
telling her that she and Blake were to be married, they stepped back and let
them actually date first, and I'd never seen Elise happier.
And they left Chet and me out of everything.
Chet didn't come out of his room much, actually, which worried me, and
when he did come out, it was only to eat and briefly let me know that he
didn't want to be there. Finally,
I decided to knock on his door and see what was going on.
I asked after knocking, and I heard his pause behind the door.
do you want?" he called back, and I grimaced at his tone.
opening the door would be a nice start," I said, and the door cracked.
I pushed it open. The room
had gotten impeccably neat, the result of hours alone inside.
The Clash was playing on his stereo, very low. But more shocking was the open duffel bag lying on his bed.
are you packing?" I asked quietly, and he crooked his head to the side,
squinting his eyes slightly as if he couldn't believe that I'd even asked
the question. "Where are you
going to go?"
home," he said automatically, not angrily, just stating a fact.
and Dad are letting you go?" I asked, looking away from his angry eyes.
not my Mom and Dad, so they don't really decide," he replied, and I
could tell that it hurt him to say that. I
walked to him, looking down, touching his arm slightly.
He brushed my hand away. "Kate,
there's nothing you can say to change things," he told me, and I shook my
then, can I ask you a few questions?" I asked, and he smiled slightly.
just did," he said, and I sighed.
why are you leaving? You didn't love Elise.
You should be happy," I said, and he shook his head, running a hand
through his hair.
really don't get it, do you?" he asked, and I nodded.
right, I don't," I replied.
is there for me here, Kate? Blake
is so obsessed with my ex-fiancé that I never see him anymore.
Elise and I were never really that good friends.
And you and I-" he looked away. "We
haven't talked in weeks. Since
before the whole wedding fiasco. And
you weren't there for me when I needed you to be.
So what am I supposed to stay for? A
sheltered life living with your family?"
I waited for him to finish, choosing my words carefully.
you know- you know that I never meant to not be there for you.
But, look at it from my point of view.
My best friend was marrying my sister, and planning on leaving me alone
with my parents and Blake," I pointed out.
Blake's not bad or anything," he tried to joke, but I didn't let him.
do you see where I'm coming from? It
was easier to go ahead and push you away then to be close and deal with losing
you," I said, close to tears. "God,
this sounds like an afterschool special," I sighed, and he laughed.
He put his hand on my shoulder.
okay, Kate. You'll always be my
favorite shrew," he smiled. We
stood like that for a while, as if waiting for something to come.
you're going to leave," I said slowly, and he pursed his mouth.
His eyes looked as though he was searching for an answer.
"I don't want you to go." He
closed his eyes and leaned back.
all I needed to hear," he said softly, and his eyes opened, and we smiled at
each other for a good while.
and Blake got married two months later, and Chet and I were, of course, best man
and maid of honor. We drove to the church together, due to my running late.
As we walked up the front of the steps, he smiled at me and stopped.
I asked, paranoid, running a hand through my hair.
I just think this is slightly humorous. What
would we have done if Elise hadn't had the sense to stand me up?" he asked,
and I shook my head.
don't even want to think about it," I said honestly.
it was my pleasure to be your date to the wedding," he smiled, opening the
door for me. "And if it
wouldn't be too weird, I wouldn't mind if this wasn't the last time I was
your date to something."
was the most round-about way of asking me out you could have chosen," I
snickered, and he shoved me, laughing. "But
sure, I wouldn't mind it either. But
now I have to go find Elise and Mom. And
you have to go up front. Look at
Blake, he looks petrified!" Chet
laughed and kissed my cheek before walking into the sanctuary.
I easily found Elise and Mom. Mom
was crying while Elise touched up her makeup.
could you be any later?" she exclaimed. "I
almost thought you and Chet weren't going to show!"
course we showed," I said, grabbing my bouquet.
Everything seemed much prettier than the first wedding.
"You look beautiful," I said, giving her a hug.
She smiled and pulled her veil over her face.
we'd better get out there. I
don't want to scare Blake- I think some people are expecting me to repeat my
last wedding," she shook her head.
you're sure about this, then?" I asked.
she smiled. "Now let's go."