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"Please?" he pleads. Summer looks back and forth between us.
"You can't just stay locked in the poolhouse forever, man. That's just not natural…."
"I'm studying." I can't believe he's still on this idea. Marissa's been gone for three days and he's been trying to fix me up since I took her to the airport. I hadn't intended on returning to school at Harbor after leaving Newport for Teresa and our child but now that I'm back in the poolhouse, I have massive amounts of summer reading to catch up on.
"Chino, come on," Summer joins in. "What do you have to lose?"
"I'm not letting you guys fix me up." I glare at Seth but he's got those eager puppy dog eyes so I can't hold his stare. Damned puppy eyes.
"Dude. You have to go out with this girl. She's hot, she's nice and she's totally low maintenance…," Seth starts.
Summer picks up the conversation. "Her name's Kimberly, and she's a senior like us that just moved in next door to me and --"
"She's so hot," Seth adds, but not without receiving a shove from his girlfriend. I smile slightly. In a twisted way, they're perfect for each other.
"Chino, you have to get back in the saddle," Summer says quietly.
"You and Coop were totally wrong for each other and now that she's gone, you have a chance to find someone that's right for you. You have a clean slate."
"And you're totally angst-free now, right?" Seth raises a questioning eyebrow.
Angst-free. That'll be the day. I can't stop from laughing.
"Ryan. Dude. Please."
"You already promised her, didn't you?"
"Well, sort of."
"Guys, I don't even know how to date, per se…." It's true. The closest I'd ever come to dating was with Marissa, and we tended to stay in and make-out rather than 'date'.
"We can teach you. Well, I can teach you, I guess," Summer says, glancing at Seth.
"You're not teaching him how to date. That's just not even cool," Seth scolds.
I come to realize that I'm not going to find any peace until I agree to this.
"She goes by Kimmie," Seth says immediately with a grin.
I can smell my doom already.
I'm supposed to meet 'Kimmie' at seven. Seth and Summer had originally promised to double date with us but Summer had some sort of bogus emergency at home and they had bailed. Figures. Here I go.
The restaurant is nice but not too fancy. Sandy calls it a 'bistro' and it seems laid back.
Kirsten had helped me get ready, insisting that I couldn't go out on a date in jeans. I don't think I like this dating thing. It's like I'm putting on an act, getting all dressed up so I can pretend to be interested in some girl who's pretending, too. So, after what seemed like hours of fussing, I'm in black slacks that Kirsten picked out, a tight black shirt that Summer went out and bought for me and a belt that Seth says he can't 'pull off' with his wardrobe.
I'm trying not to be grouchy. I'm trying to be angst-free.
"Are you Ryan?"
I turn and immediately feel my appetite flee.
She looks like she's walked right off the set of 'Bring it On.' She's a cheerleader in every way, shape and form. She's even wearing a short pleated skirt and a tight pink top that matches her lipstick. Tall, blonde, curvy and definitely preppy. I can feel the preppy. Anyone that wears that much make-up cannot be not low maintenance. I'm going to kill Seth.
"Yeah. Kimmie?" I force myself to smile and she seems satisfied. She stands up and I give her an awkward hug.
"You're cute." Her lips part into a smile to reveal perfect teeth. Her lips are perfect. She's a beautiful girl. Entirely too perfect for me. I've learned from my mistakes… specifically, Marissa.
I guess I'm supposed to compliment her back, seeing as how she's got that pissed off look on her face.
"So, you're going to be starting Harbor in the fall?" Small talk. Not my specialty. Something I've never learned about in school.
"Yeah, my 'rents are totally retarded. They're making me go to this gay school, thinking that I'll do better in a new environment."
"Where are you from?" I'm trying to act like it matters. I don't know why Seth and Summer thought she'd be right for me. I can already tell we have nothing in common and we've only exchanged a few words.
She takes advantage of the question to launch into a long description of her old school where she was homecoming queen and cheerleading captain.
I space out when she starts talking about her ex-boyfriend who goes to UCLA.
"You don't care about any of this, do you?" she asks with a grin. Now I'm really lost.
That question sounds like it should come with a slap or a drink in the face.
"No, no, I do…," I start, but I stop talking when I feel her foot pushing up my pant leg.
"You don't seem that interested," she replies.
"I'm sorry, I'm just a little distracted…." Her foot moves higher. Now I'm really distracted. Maybe I misread Kimmie.
"Well, since we're being honest…. My ex? He's not my ex. My parents don't want me to see him anymore so they moved me here. So, I really just agreed to this date because I needed the company."
"The company?" I can barely thrust the words out, but I have to make sure that I'm not getting the wrong idea.
Her foot settles into the center of the seat near my crotch. That's pretty clear. That's the idea.
"Yeah." She grins. "I'm sort of hungry…."
Wait. Nope, that's not what I was thinking. Re-group. Focus. "You want to order?"
"Not really. That's not what I'm hungry for," Kimmie murmurs mischievously.
The waitress approaches.
"I'm sorry, but we've decided to go somewhere else," I inform our young server.
Instincts are taking over. I stand up and hold out my hand. Kimmie accepts, and we leave the restaurant. She's hungry. That's good enough for me. This dating thing is suddenly a whole lot clearer. Finally, something I know how to do.
I park the Range Rover and glance at myself in the mirror. I grab Seth's belt off the backseat but I'm too tired to put it back on. My hair's all messed up; Kimmie is a grabber, but I don't have time to worry about that. I'm late for curfew, but at least the lights are out in the big house. I make my way to the poolhouse.
"Hey! How'd it go, stud?" Summer calls as I flip the light switch in the poolhouse.
Summer and Seth are curled up on my bed. I don't want to know what they've been doing on it. I'll have to change the sheets.
"I don't think I'll be going out with her again." I'm telling the truth, at least. They don't need to know the details.
"What happened? You didn't hit it off?" Seth asks, clearly unhappy that I didn't come back with loving feelings for little Kimmie.
"Not really. We don't have anything in common…."
"Why do you look so…disheveled?" Summer asks, raising an eyebrow as her eyes scan over my body.
"I rode home with the windows down." It is true. I had to get the smell of sex out of the Rover. I hadn't wanted to do it there, but Kimmie… well, Kimmie isn't all that patient.
"So dinner sucked?"
Dinner's not the only thing that sucked.
"Ryan?" Summer urges.
Thank God I didn't say that out loud.
"We didn't really eat that much."
"So you were just really bored?" Seth asks.
God, the questions. So many questions….
"We weren't bored, exactly," I reply. "Just not compatible." In a relationship. We were pretty compatible in other areas. She was limber.
"Damn, Ryan, I thought you guys would hit it off," Summer says. "But next time…."
Next time? No, no, no, that can't be good.
"Summer, there won't be a next time."
"You can't give up after one bad date," Seth chimes in.
It wasn't really a bad date…it wasn't really a date at all.
"Guys, I'm really tired. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Well, sorry it didn't work out for you, bro. I guess we'll let you brood," Seth says, helping Summer to her feet.
I just want to go to bed. But first, I have to change those sheets….
The next morning, I'm late getting to the kitchen so I grab a bottle of juice and set my backpack on the table.
"Mom's taking us to school," Seth tells me from his seat at the counter.
"Cool," I say between gulps.
"So, are you mad at me?"
"For setting you up on the date from hell."
"It wasn't that bad, Seth." I thought this conversation was over. I don't want to talk about this today. I want to go to school, then come home and sleep. I don't want to worry about my 'depressing romantic options' as Seth so kindly puts it.
"Seth, Ryan, can you guys help me with these boxes?" Kirsten calls from the other room.
"Come on, Seth," I urge, happy for the opportunity to walk away from this conversation.
"I have to get these to the Newport Group after I drop you guys off." Kirsten smiles at us as we enter the room. "How was your date, Ryan?"
"It sucked and he hates me," Seth answers for me, picking up a box and walking out.
"It wasn't that bad, we just weren't compatible," I tell Kirsten, whose face is glazed with confusion. I pick up another box and carry it out before she can ask anymore questions.
These people are relentless.
Seth has placed his box on the front seat so I deposit mine on the floor below.
"Thanks, guys." Kirsten smiles and shakes her keys. "I'm ready if you guys are."
Seth climbs in and I walk around the Rover, getting in on the opposite side.
Kirsten slowly pulls out of the driveway while tuning the radio to an overly perky morning show. Seth is fidgeting beside me. I lean my head against the window and close my eyes. He must have an itch.
Seth gasps suddenly and I jerk my head up and brace myself, assuming we're about to be t-boned or something equally drastic. I quickly scan the road and see no impending danger. Seth, however, is holding something that apparently has him horrified. His face has lost all color and his eyes dart from his mother, to me and back to his mother again.
Kirsten is laughing at something on the radio, oblivious to the scene behind her.
Oh shit. I recognize the blue wrapper and immediately rip it from his fingers and stuff it into my pocket. Shit. I thought I'd cleaned out the truck.
He's still staring at his mother in horror. Oh God, he thinks it's Kirsten's garbage. I nudge him and shake my head slightly.
"But…," he mouths, his eyes still wide with shock.
"No…," I mouth back, shaking my head.
His brow furrows in confusion.
I can't believe he thinks his mom would fuck in the Rover. Kirsten's more high class than that. I doubt she's ever done it in a car.
"Kimmie!" Seth says suddenly before covering his own mouth.
I close my eyes and turn my face away.
"What was that, Seth?" Kirsten asks, turning down the radio and eyeing her son in the rear-view mirror.
He doesn't answer, he's just shaking his head at me with a disappointed, yet slightly awed, look on his face.
"Seth? You guys are awfully quiet," Kirsten says suspiciously.
"I don't think there are any words for what I'm thinking right now," Seth says quietly.
"Shut up," I whisper.
"Wait 'til I tell Summer," he hisses at me with a mirthful grin.
"I am going to kick your ass," I murmur so that Kirsten doesn't hear me.
Seth laughs. I sigh and let my forehead rest against the window. It's going to be a long day.
"Dude…dude!" Seth is calling to me but I just speed up my stride in walking away from him. "Dude!" He grabs my arm and I'm forced to stop.
"What's up, guys?" Summer pecks Seth on the cheek before eyeing me up. Undoubtedly, she, too, will want answers.
"Yeah, Ryan, what exactly is up?" Seth grins. I'd like to smack that grin off his face.
"I have to get to class." I cringe at my own lame attempt to change the subject.
I notice Seth whispering in Summer's ear, and before I can walk away, she gasps and slaps my upper-arm. Hard. That'll leave a hand print for sure.
"Ow…." I take a step back and rub the stinging skin on my arm.
"That's not how you date, Chino!" she scolds. Summer's eyes are flashing with anger. I fear I'll be the next victim of one of her fits.
"Guys, it wasn't like that…," I try pleading my case.
"So you and Kimmie didn't get it on in the back of my mom's Range Rover?"
Well, when he puts it like that…. Summer reacts quickly when I hesitate, and slaps her palm hard against my other arm.
"Jesus!" I yelp as her hand connects. For a little person, she's got some unimaginable power.
"That's not how you treat a girl, Chino!"
"I…that's what she…I wasn't the only person there!"
Summer places her hands on her hips. Oh God, I can sense a lecture coming on.
"You're clueless, Chino. You know that?"
Well, I don't have a clue what she's talking about, if that's what she means.
I don't feel safe answering, so I stand there… speechless. If I knew what she wanted me to say, I'd say it. Anything. As long as she stopped with the hitting.
Her face softens and she steps forward. I tense, waiting for another devastating blow.
"Oh relax, I'm not going to hit you again," she demands, waving a hand in the air.
"She hits hard, doesn't she?" Seth mumbles from behind her.
"Shut-up, Cohen," she snaps.
Seth nods and steps back. I now realize why he so rarely challenges Summer - or should I say, 'iron fist'.
"You're going to do this again, and this time, we're going to be there." She motions towards Seth and herself.
My eyes widen in surprise. I didn't think Summer was into that sort of thing. Hell, I don't even know if I'm into that sort of thing. I can see Seth's jaw dropping as well.
Summer's eyes narrow in confusion. "Not that, you idiot," she scolds in disgust. "Dating! We're going to double date."
Oh. Well, that makes more sense. Seth almost looks disappointed. I shake my head and try not to think about that too much.
However, her words quickly set in. The mere thought of double dating is traumatizing. It's hard enough worrying about impressing one person, let alone dealing with two, gawking, analyzing spectators.
"I don't think that's a good --"
"Too bad, Chino," Summer interrupts. "You had your chance with Kimmie. We're taking over from here."
"Guys," I start with a laugh, "I don't even want to 'date'…especially not like this."
"So what? You're just going to sleep your way around until you meet the right girl?"
My eyes drift off to the side and I raise my eyebrows as I contemplate the question. She makes it sound so wrong….
"No. Uh uh," she shakes her head, grabs me by the arm and starts down the hall. Seth follows obediently. "We'll take care of everything from here on. You'll just have to show up." She stops abruptly and glares at me, her fingers gripped tightly around my forearm.
"You're doing this. You'll thank us for it later."
She doesn't give me a chance to object before striding for the classroom door across the hall.
Seth backs away, his palms turned up, an apologetic smile on his face. "Sorry, dude," he whispers before disappearing into the room behind Summer.
Oh yeah. Nothing can go wrong with this plan….