Seventeen Years Ago
Ella was gushing about something in her room as I walked by and I couldn’t help but stop in the hallway and listen.
I was a boy after all, and if I could get dirt on my only sibling, I would take it any way I could.
“He’s always looking at me, Bree. I think he’s going to ask me out soon!” my sixteen-year-old sibling cooed into the cordless phone. “He’s so good looking!”
I rolled my grey eyes upward in disgust. At thirteen, I’d just begun to notice girls but my sister had been dating for over a year. I knew whomever she was talking about this time was just another in a long line of idiots who would be dropped like a hot potato when she got bored. Ella was nothing if not predictable.
“I know,” Ella continued, sighing dreamily to whomever was indulging her stupidity. “I think he’s the one.”
I couldn’t resist striding into her room, puckering my face into a kissing expression.
“Ella’s in love!” I crooned, dancing around as she looked at me, aghast that I had overheard her dumb conversation. “Ella and dumb ass, sitting in a tree—”
“MALCOM!” she screamed. “GET OUT!”
I ignored her, of course and continued to dance around in the irritating way only a young teenager could. I didn’t see the paperback book before it hit me squarely in the head. She had great aim, I’ll give her that.
“GET OUT! MOM! MOM!”
I grunted and spun to leave before my mother could come to investigate the ruckus but I was too late. She must have already been upstairs folding laundry or something because my foot wasn’t even in the hallway before my mom loomed before me, her hazel eyes flashing.
“Mal, what are you doing?” she growled, folding her arms over her chest firmly. It wasn’t hard to see where I’d gotten my height—she was Amazonian, truly and she seemed even bigger with the annoyance etched over her face. Mom never needed to raise her voice—just looking at her when she was bothered was enough to turn my bowels to water.
“Nothing!” I lied quickly. “I was just saying hi!”
Ella’s bedroom door slammed behind me with finality, reverberating the hallway so hard the family pictures on the walls shook. I was left to deal with my mother’s wrath.
“Why must you always torture your sister?” Mom sighed.
I shrugged and grinned at her, hoping to disarm her with my boyish charms.
“She makes it easy.”
I leaned in conspiratorially, hoping to bring Mom into my fold before she unleashed a punishment on me.
“She’s got new prey in her view.”
Mom’s delicate eyebrows arched and her eyes narrowed.
“What does that mean, Malcolm?”
“She’s talking to Bree about a boy at school.”
I exhaled with relief as I saw Mom’s eyes flash, knowing that she had shifted her focus toward my sister and temporarily forgotten me.
“That girl…” she muttered, shaking her head. She reached for the doorknob and opened Ella’s bedroom door.
“MOM!” Ella howled and I stood back, smirking with content. “GET OUT!”
“Don’t you dare talk to me like that, Ella Miranda Laurier! Get off the phone this instant!”
I loved that feeling of self-satisfied smugness which enveloped me, knowing that I was singlehandedly responsible and I watched the scene unfold with an indescribable deliciousness.
“I’ll call you back, Bree,” Ella muttered into the phone and hanging up before turning to glare at my mother indignantly. “What?”
“Who is this boy?” Mom demanded. “Didn’t you just break up with Ryan Milner?”
Ella’s look was meant to cut me but it only added to my internal glee. What was it about siblings at that age which made us hellbent on making one another miserable?
“GET OUT, MALCOLM!” she howled at me but I remained in place. Ella turned to Mom.
“I’m not saying a word until he goes!” she snapped and Mom turned to me.
“Go to your room, Mal.”
“Aw, come on!” I protested. “You wouldn’t even know about this if it wasn’t for me.”
Unlike Ella’s, Mom’s look did chill me to the core and I hung my head and shuffled away. I knew the death stare when I saw it.
“Close the door!” Ella yelled after me as I begrudgingly turned away but I didn’t. I barely moved two feet, ducking around the corner to listen to their conversation.
“Who is this boy, Ella?” My mom demanded without preamble. “You need to slow down and let yourself be a kid.”
“I’m not a kid!” Ella protested. “I’m sixteen!”
I heard Mom grunt and I snickered to myself. I wondered if she was going to forbid Ella to see this new guy.
“Mom,” Ella said, lowering her voice. There was a plaintive note in her tone.
“Mom, Grayson’s different. He’s so handsome. Every girl wants to date him and he’s been looking at me over everyone else!”
“Ella,” Mom said sternly. “If every girl wants to date him, it’s probably because he dates every girl! You need to focus on your school work right now and—”
“That’s not true! He’s new in town. He hasn’t dated anyone!”
I had a weird tickle in the back of my mind. Was my sister chasing after the guy who had just moved in across the street? I’d only gotten a glimpse of him a few times but something about that whole family bothered me. Maybe it was the way the girl, presumably Grayson’s sister, stared at the window of her bedroom and watched the world go by. I never saw much of her outside of school but from what I saw of her, she always had her nose stuck in a book. She reeked of boring with her bespectacled brown eyes and little nose. I couldn’t even tell you her name. They’d only been in Sterling for two weeks, arriving in the middle of the semester and disrupting everyone like they were somehow better. The new girl hadn’t tried to get to know anyone but who would want to know a geek like her anyway, even if she was kinda cute when you squinted at her sideways. Not that I did, of course. What did I care about her?
“Ella be that as it may, you’re becoming boy crazed. It’s not healthy and you’re going to end up hurt if you keep this up!” Mom insisted. I could hear the worry in her voice and I wondered why she cared so much about what Ella did. What was the worst that could happen?
“God! It’s like you were never a teenaged girl!” Ella grunted in frustration. “Don’t you care about true love?”
I barely managed to stifle the guffaw but I clamped a hand over my mouth. I definitely wanted to hear the end of this.
“Ella,” Mom tried again. “I won’t stand in your way if you want to date a boy. Your father and I have always maintained that you won’t learn if you don’t make your own mistakes but I’m telling you right now, this Grayson boy doesn’t sound like a good fit.”
“You don’t know anything about him!” Ella exploded, her tone reaching that annoying whine which made me cringe. “He’s perfect!”
I rolled my eyes again and turned away from the bedroom, shaking my head in disgust. Ella said that about every moron she dated. I didn’t put much stock into this new one.
I guess I’ll meet him soon enough, I thought with some glee. I couldn’t wait to put the screws to this new one. I hoped Ella would invite him over for dinner soon as she tended to do. She never learned from her mistakes, no matter what Mom and Dad hoped for her.
I trudged back to my room and closed the door quietly, plopping onto my bed to look at the poster of Green Day on the ceiling. As long as I lived, I would never understand Ella or any other girl for that matter.
I made a pact to myself from that moment that I wouldn’t ever act as stupid as my sister in the matters of the opposite sex. My eyes shifted toward another poster which was hid from general view and I smiled to myself. Britney Spears stared at me with those alluring brown eyes and I felt a familiar lurch in the pit of my stomach.
Except for you, Britney, I giggled silently. I’d do anything for you.