“I’m just doing a thing,” I answer nonchalantly into the phone while getting a funny stare from Vinh. I hold the phone away and mouth “what?” to him. He shakes his head while holding a grin.
“I can hear your tv in the background noise. So you’re not busy?”
“I’m hanging out with Vinh. We’re kinda stuck at home and-”
“Can I join you guys?” His tone sounds sad and I could sense that he needed this.
“Be right there!” He hangs up and for a moment, I just hold my phone and stare at it, confused.
“So…” Vinh starts, giving me a seductive smile and sloppily licking his lips.
“What?” I snap at him. I do not need this right now.
“He sounds eager to see you.”
I shake my head, “He just needs a friend.”
“He’s got plenty already,” he scoffs.
“Maybe he needs a different type of friend.”
“You mean the female kind? The one he gets to kiss and stuff?”
The “and stuff” thought sends shivers down my spine. Why does he have to go there? What does “and stuff” entail?
“No,” I object, “It’s not like that.”
“Oh yeah? Then why’d he bring you this?” He taps the bobblehead sitting at the center of the coffee table, which then starts bobbing in a frenzy. When I told him this morning about the events of last night, he went nuts with the questions and the hinting.
“It’s just a joke we have…” I tap my bottom lip, pondering.
“Uh huh. Sure,” he says, unconvinced, and then bursts, “Come on Tamtam! He talked to you at the party, he carried you to the office the next day and took you home, and now he’s been in your bedroom in the dead of night. There’s something there.”
“Well I don’t want to think of that, okay?”
We had spent the entire morning catching me up on homework. My mom had brought home a few bags of shirt collars that she would soon have to sew onto shirts at work. This was a common occurrence on weekends, since she did a lot of the heavy sewing, I would do some of the easier stuff, like flipping these collars out to have them ready for attachment. It was mindless work that would earn me some allowance I never spend. So far, I’ve saved up a few hundred dollars, only because I never feel the need to buy new clothes or go out.
“So he’s coming over?” Vinh looks at me as his hands continue to flip a collar and drive a single chopstick in it to force a sharper corner.
“Yeah, I guess,” I shrug, changing the subject, “So how about you tell me about Jeremy? What’s he like?”
He blushes and responds shyly, “I don’t know. He’s really cute and he likes the same music as me…”
“So basically, he’s eye candy and perfect for you,” I translate, pinching his cheek.
“I told him to brace himself when I bring him into officially meet you. He’s actually really nervous about it. He’s so cute.” Vinh bites back a smile. It’s so good to see him this happy.
He was devastated after Scarlett left him. She told him that they just weren’t a match and she had to move on, but I had seen them together at the time and everything felt fine. I guess it just looked that way.
It wasn’t long until Silas came over, greeting us both and offering some leftover soup. After watching me do some labor, he decided he wanted to join in. I don’t refuse, since he’ll be doing work that I’ll be paid for.
“Alright,” Vinh says suddenly, “I have to start reading Great Gatsby for AP English, so I’m switching the entertainment to something more mindless.” He lifts the remote and directs it to play an episode of That 70’s Show, which just might be my favorite sitcom.
“That’s a good book, but I don’t like the romance in there. It’s a complete lie,” Silas surprises us with his criticism.
“You read?” My tone must sound insulting, but I can’t help it. I scan his face to detect any hint of offense, but his eyes only suggest amusement.
“I do know how to, if that was in question.” He continues to stare at me, and I feel my cheeks burning. He looked different today, more relaxed than usual. He came over wearing basketball shorts and a gray muscle shirt that really brought out his arms.
God, he looks good.
It literally takes effort for me not to lick his face.
Judging by his clothes, he must have swung by here after the gym. I guess he really meant it when he tried to say not all guys stink. I smile from the memory of the party.
“What she means is,” Vinh explains, smiling while poking my side, “you don’t seem like a person who would enjoy reading, or academia in general.”
“I read plenty. Got a whole bookcase at home of classics.” He turns to me, and I realize he must be hoping for me to testify to this, but I could barely remember which shoes I wore that night, let alone the things in his bedroom.
“You failed Bio freshman year,” Vinh points out.
“Dylan had me busy that year.” Excuses, excuses, pretty boy.
He doesn’t say anything further about the topic, but I can tell it was difficult for him to talk about it, like facing a consequence he knew was clearly his fault. With his lips pursed, he glares at the tv. Just then, my favorite lines of the episode come up.
“Guys, let me ask you something. Donna told me she loves me and then I told her I love cake. That’s not bad is it? I’m still cool, right?” Eric asks the group.
The camera pans to each friend with a look of angry disbelief in their face.
“Okay, I don’t know what happened. I just panicked and it popped out. I mean, I don’t remember wanting to ever talk about cake. I wasn’t really that hungry,” Eric continues frantically.
The camera pans over to Fez, who then advises, “Cake is good, but you cannot have sex with cake.”
“You can have sex with cake, if you put your mind to it,” I announce without thinking. “Bundt cakes are a thing.”
Vinh doesn’t look up to reply, “Yeah, but you’d need a massive beef-sicle to feel anything with that gaping hole.”
“They sell mini bundt cake pans, I think,” I say as I turn over to see Silas with a funny look on his face. His eyes were wide, and in them I saw a beautiful chocolate color that had carried different shades which danced in the light as I catch him taking in my face. His mouth was slack as he hung his jaw in shock.
“What?” I pretend not to know what he is surprised about.
“You’re not usually like this at school,” he states, as if he knew.
“How would you know? You didn’t even know my name until yesterday.” I tap his temple with my index finger.
“I saw you with Susan. You would not be talking about this stuff at school,” Silas argues.
“Who’s Susan?” Vinh still has his face in his book, but I can tell he wasn’t focused on it at all.
“School nurse,” I clarify. Then, I turn over to Silas and tell him, “I’m always like this at home, or anytime I’m with Vinh.”
He sighs happily and runs his fingers through his warm brown hair, which now became a mess of waves pointing here and there on his head. “I think I like it here with you guys.”
Sunday mornings are for dressing up to go to church. My mom can only go in the mornings so that she can work later, which is odd, because I’m sure there’s something about that in the 10 Commandments, but I’m just a kid. What do I know.
This morning I threw on a flowy white sundress that had summery colored lace at the neckline and hem. I chose this one because it didn’t have sleeves, which meant more comfort and air flowing around. California needs to catch up on the weather of autumn.
I’ve grown up wearing dresses often, but never to school. Before that, it was because Natasha said it made her look bad. She actually told me that my wearing a dress would make her look bad, or at least take away from her presence. The truth was, she didn’t like that my mom made my clothes. She didn’t want other people to know and she didn’t want me to wear anything too attention grabbing. I wasn’t even sure if she was ashamed or envious, but I like to think that I have something she doesn’t. Being her friend was exhausting.
I had gotten used to not wearing dresses to school, but it’s been years since I stopped hanging around Natasha. It made sense to start, but now it’s more a matter of, what she would do to me if she saw me at school defying one of her past orders.
I sigh as I sit in the car, staring out the window as my mom drives me home. The plan is, she takes us to church, drops me off at home so I could tutor Damon, and then heads to work. Because I missed out on tutoring him Friday, I promised to make up for it today since I had nothing better to do. It was either this or hours of creative writing, which usually makes me feel extremely disconnected from the world and scares me a little.
When I arrive at home, I find Damon sitting at the front step, with his back against the door. He rests the top of his head on the door as well, exposing to me his jaw, which was perfectly defined and in plain view.
I can’t date that guy. He’s too perfect!
He was wearing a dark green henley that matched his eyes and a dark blue pair of straight jeans that bunched up a bit at his ankles. His sleeves are pulled up to his elbows and I could see his dirty blond hair peeking out from under his brown beanie. Why is he wearing a beanie when it’s like a hundred degrees out? I will never understand beautiful people.
As he opens his eyes to see me approaching, I am taken aback by his dazzling smile. He stands up and walks up to me for a hug. “You look amazing,” he whispers into my ear.
“What? This old thing?” I gesture to my dress and when I catch him appreciating it, I decide to curtsy for full effect.
Later, we had everything set up in my bedroom and as we were studying, he points at my Superman bobblehead. “Is that new?”
I hesitate to answer, almost like I felt guilty.
There’s nothing guilty about telling one handsome boy about a gift another handsome boy gave you.
“It’s from Silas,” I answer quietly, cautious.
“He was here again?” There was uneasiness in his expression and it looked like the pencil he had in his hand was going to snap.
“Yeah,” I start, thinking of a way to ease the tension, “he’s proven himself to be a nice guy. A good friend.”
That last part was forced. It was inserted in my answer purposely to make it sound like I wouldn’t jump his bones. But this is Damon and I care about Damon.
Damon is reliable and trustworthy.
Damon makes me feel safe.
Damon is safe, someone my mother would prefer for me to be around.
“So, Tammy?” He sounds nervous. Are those sweat stains on his paper?
“I was wondering if you’d want to come with me to the homecoming dance?”
I stop everything I was doing and stare at him with wide eyes. My lips are trying to move but my lungs are having trouble pumping air. I feel a weird cold sweat puddling in my palms and there’s a weird muscle twitch going on in my left forearm.
Sensing my lack of response, he quickly adds “As friends, of course.”
I gulp the sea of saliva in my mouth and nod ever so slightly.
That was close.