The first thing Lil DeVille noticed when her brother walked through the door was that he was wet. Oddly enough, it hadn't even been raining, as far as she had been concerned. She looked him up and down, hair sticking to the sides of his face, dripping all over the carpet, eyes full of some new mixture of emotion she'd only seen him wear, well, never. She set her magazine down on her lap and asked, "Hey, little brother. How was your first date?"
Like she expected, her question posed serious consequences. Her brother turned to her, barely registering that she was there, and glared with the most hatred, the most venom, she'd ever seen him possess, ever. "How was my first date?" He spat, "How do you think it went?"
"I'm guessing not pretty good," Lil mused, pushing herself off from the couch. He brother was already stomping his way over to the bathroom, leaving a trail of something that looked similar to water but smelled a bit sweeter in dots on the floor. She knew their mother would kill him for ruining the carpet but that was the farthest thing from her mind. She followed him, hoping that she'd make it to him in time before he locked himself away like she was sure he would. "Phil. Wait, Phil!"
"I don't want to talk about it, Lillian."
"Then you don't have to," Lil said. She reached her arm out and grabbed a hold of her brother's wet shoulder, stopping him in his tracks right outside of the bathroom. "Just tell me what the heck you were swimming in. It's all over the floor. Mom's gonna flip if it stains."
"It's just soda, Cruella. Relax," Phil sighed. "Now if you will excuse me, I've got to go to the bathroom."
While Lil had a feeling there was more than one reason for him to want her out of his sight, she had no choice but to release him and watch as he slammed the door behind him. The light flicked on a second later and shone thought the cracks around the door. Inside there seemed to be nothing but silence. He was probably staring at himself, she figured. She'd worked so hard in making him look properly presentable, which she'd enjoyed immensely. Not solely because she was a girl and liked giving make-overs by nature, but because she was proud of her little brother going on his first date, and wanted things to sail as smoothly as possible. Somehow, it hadn't worked out the way they'd both wanted it. They hadn't seen Hurricane Natalie in the forecast.
How her handsome, neat, embarrassingly giddy (and most importantly, dry) brother ended up looking like he did when he arrived home some thirty to forty-five minutes early, Lil wanted to know. But she knew her brother and she knew him well and knew she would have to tread lightly. If she said the wrong thing he was likely to shut down completely and she wouldn't get a word out of him for the rest of the night. If she said the right things, he would slowly, unknowingly, begin to unravel the mysteries of what was his first date, and she would know how to help him.
With a sigh, Lil leaned against the wall and waited. She needed to give him a moment to gather his thoughts, get dry and if he hadn't been lying, use the bathroom. A minute or so later, she heard the familiar sound of a toilet flushing and a sink turning on. She knew this was her chance. She rapped her knuckles on the door, calling out, cautiously, "Phil?"
"I'm in the bathroom," was his answer.
"I know that, stupid." Lil rolled her eyes. "I just want to know if you're okay."
"I'm fine, Dr. Lil," Phil groaned. It was his favorite thing to call her when he found her questions obnoxious. "Can't I get a little privacy? Geeze! The bathroom's supposed to be like the most private place in the entire house."
"You're not even using the bathroom, anymore," Lil shared, as if he were too stupid to notice himself. "You already flushed the toilet and washed your hands. So how 'bout you just open the door and let me in?"
"Not a chance."
"Phil, I need to get a towel to mop up the soda you dripped all over the floor!" Lil explained, "So, come on. Just open the door for a sec. I'm not gonna bother you, I promise."
There was a moment of obvious hesitation, a groan, then suddenly the door to the bathroom unlocked and opened just a crack. Lil, proud that she'd torn down the first of her brother's many walls, pushed it open wider and nodded at him. "Thank you." She entered the bathroom, careful not to trip over the shoes he'd kicked off his feet and the jacket he'd slipped out of and let fall carelessly to the floor. She reached over for the single blue towel hanging from the hook, as he was using the other to dry his hair, and exited to go do what it was she had told him she would be doing. She had to keep her word or her plan would never work. Thankfully, the door never shut once she was out of his sight.
When she was done, she walked back into the bathroom and set the towel down onto the side of the bathtub. She took a seat on the toilet (after kicking the seat and lid down) and turned her attention to her baby brother, who was watching her with an equal amount of blankness and curiosity she was him.
"Are you okay?" She asked him.
"I told you I was fine, didn't I?"
"You did, but that doesn't make it true," Lil said. "Phil, I'm your sister, for God's sake. We're twins! I'm not stupid. If there's anyone you know you can trust, it's me! Now come on, tell me what happened. I promise I won't tell mom, or dad, or Tommy or anyone if you don't want me to."
It was more than obvious he did not appreciate her reasoning, but he had to agree anyway. He always agreed anyway. Lil drove a hard bargain. With a sigh, he pressed his bare palms against the counter top as if the weight on his shoulders was too much to handle, and faced her. As soon as he did, her lips curled into a frown with the depth only a sister could pull off. She hated seeing him upset, and for whatever reason, she found herself already angry at the girl her brother had tried oh so hard to impress.
"What happened?" She asked, softer.
"You want to know what happened?" Phil repeated. "Fine. I did all the things you told me to do. I pulled the chair out for her. I-I complimented her on her dress, and her hair. I told her she looked real pretty. I did all the right things I was supposed to do."
Confused, she pondered aloud, "So, what went wrong?"
"She told me she appreciated everything I did and said to her. She called me a gentleman!" He shared, "Can you believe it?"
"Right. She called you a gentleman. That's a good thing," Lil tried.
"Yeah. Then she told me she felt bad for me trying so hard when she only went out with me because she felt bad for me," Phil explained. He paused a moment, trying to get his brain on track and fighting his hardest to keep tears out of his eyes. "She...she said she thought I was real nice, and real sweet and kind of cute, but didn't really...she...she only felt bad for me!"
"What?" Lil screeched.
"I asked her why she even said yes in the first place, and she said she couldn't say no because she didn't want to hurt my feelings!" Phil went on, knowing that her logic was stupid because he ended up getting hurt anyway. "I knew I shouldn't have asked her out, it was stupid!"
"Phil," Lil frowned.
"I can't believe I embarrassed myself like that! Wasting so much time getting ready, becomming a 'gentleman', " he spat. He gripped the counter tighter as if he were preventing himself from falling over and dying. He wanted to. "All for some girl who only wanted to go out with me because she felt sorry for me. I told you I shouldn't have asked her! No girl would ever want me. I can't believe I was so stupid."
"Hold on there, bro." Lil said, pushing herself off from her seat on the toilet. "It's not your fault."
"No, you're right. It's not. It's your fault!" Phil said, turning and practically stabbing his sister in the chest with his pointed finger.
"My fault?" Lil asked, incredulously.
"Yeah! If you hadn't forced me to ask her out, none of this mess would have ever happened!" Phil wildly accused. "I would have been home, watching the new Yu-Gotta-Go special instead of acting like a fool at a restaurant I couldn't even afford to buy a soda from! If you hadn't kept...bugging me to...to get a girlfriend, I wouldn't...I wouldn't be," there was a grimace and suddenly the walls were broken. Tears broke free from the dam like a convict who just got on parole, and Phil knew there was no point in hiding them anymore. His shoulders slumped and his hands dropped pathetically to his side, and he continued, " here, covered in...soda...like an idiot."
Lil didn't know what to say. She watched on, helplessly, as her even more helpless brother motioned for the door and told her to "just get out". She did not move, an action which infuriated her confused brother to no extent. The anger in his eyes was back, but she wasn't really sure he knew who it was he was actually angry at: her, his date, or himself.
"Lillian, I said get out."
But Lillian would not have any of it. Instead, she closed off the space between them and engulfed her brother in the biggest, strongest embrace she'd given him in who knows how long. While she did not appreciate getting the blame for something she did not feel was entirely her fault, she knew she deserved to feel some guilt. After all, her little brother was hurting and that was enough to drive her up the wall.
Phil, surpised at her loving gesture, stood confused for a moment or two before reluctantly hugging her back. He himself knew that it was not right making everything her fault, because he was surely angry at himself as well, but he wished she would just leave him alone. He appreciated that she wanted him to feel better, to feel loved, but he was outraged with himself and did not want her to see him like this. He didn't want to be seen so...broken. And especially not over some girl.
"I'm sorry," Lil said, after another moment.
"No," Phil said, breaking away from her. " I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that stuff about you...I just..." He shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders, obviously unaware of how to properly apologize to her this time. "I was just...mad."
"And you have every right to be."
"I just can't believe she'd do that to me. I can't believe I even asked her in the first place," Phil sniffled. "I don't even know why I asked her..."
"You asked her because I told you to ask her," Lil conceded. She knew even if her brother took back whatever he had said, to some extent she was partially responsible for his pain. In fact, highly responsible. She'd known that he hadn't the nerves to ask the girl of his dreams out, and he'd more than likely only done it just to make her happy and proud of him. She hadn't seen it before but she knew it now, and it made her even angrier at herself. And at the girl who'd played her brother like a cheap harmonica. "And I'm sorry. I know I can be a little...overbearing...sometimes, but it's just because I care, and I want to see you happy. You do know that, right?"
"It's not really your fault," Phil denied. "I didn't mean it."
"No, it's okay. I admit...I kept pushing you to ask her out, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pressure you so much, and I know it wasn't right making you do something you weren't ready to do. But I knew how much you liked her, and I just wanted you to be happy." Lil said, " I just wanted to help."
"I know you did," Phil nodded. "And thanks...but, next time...I think I'll ask a girl out by myself. Not that I didn't appreciate the help, 'cause you really did help me, you know. If you hadn't convinced me to ask her out, I never would have gotten the courage to do it myself, and wouldn't even had the chance, so...thanks."
"Well, in that case...you're welcome," Lil smiled.
"Yeah," he smiled back. It wasn't the usual type of smile he gave her, but at least he was trying to get over it, which was all his sister really asked for. He was entitled to feeling crummy for the rest of the night, after all, his heart had been broken by one of the prettiest girls in the entire school. In a way, he thought of it like a scar, or a war story. Something he would look back at one day and find funny or inspiring. But not tonight. Tonight he was going to bed early and swearing off girls until high school.
"So, are we cool?" Lil asked.
"Yeah, we're cool." Phil confirmed.
"Good. Because there's one more thing I don't understand."
"If everything was going so smooth before she admitted why she was really there..." Lil questioned, "Then why are you covered in soda?"
"Oh. That's uh...a long story. I-I don't really wanna talk about it, anymore. " Phil mumbled, as if he were dodging a bullet. He grabbed the towel he was using up from where it lay over the sink and hung it over the hook where it belonged. "I kind of just want to go to bed..." he said, suddenly not in the mood to have a discussion.
Lil, surprised at how sudden his demeanor changed, had to put her foot down. "Phil, if you've already told me most of the story, you should at least tell me the rest of it. A girl pretending to like you so you could feel good about yourself...I mean, come on...what could be worse than that?"
"Me bumping into the waitor trying to run away and making him fall and spill all his drinks over me?" Phil grumbled. "I'll tell you about it, later. We never even got to eat, and I'm hungry. I'm getting a snack and going to bed."
"You don't need to be embarrassed to talk about girls with me," Lil laughed, following him out of the bathroom. She flicked the light off as she went by and shut the door behind. "My first date didn't work out that well, either, if you remember."
"Nope," Phil said. "Don't remember, and don't want to."
"Well, so maybe I didn't end up covered in soda, but still...It was your first date. Those are supposed to go bad," Lil consoled. "It's like...the law of nature, or something. We're destined to screw up on our first try. That's why it's called the first date."
"Whatever," Phil sighed, trudging dejectedly into the kitchen. "Thanks for trying to make me feel better, sis. But I think one date is enough for me. For a lifetime." The boy pulled the fridge open and looked it over carefully, trying to find anything that he would consider a comfort food. Nothing really came to mind, but he stayed put anyway.
"Oh, no. Don't tell me you're giving up that easily, mister!" Lil scolded, trotting over and pushing the fridgerator door closed.
"Lillian," Phil groaned. " My heart is broken. Yes, I'm giving up that easily! Please just let me give up."
"Nope. Sorry, but as your sister I'm not allowed to let you off that easily. What that girl did, Phil, was just plain mean. As good as her intentions were. She should have known that saying no thank you would be the better thing to do, but she didn't. She was too stupid."
"Or I was too stupid to think I even had a chance," said the boy.
"Phillip!" His sister screeched, smacking him hard on the arm.
"Oooouw!" Phil yelped. His hand instantly shot up to the side of his arm, desperate to rub the pain away. He glared at his sister, confused, but furious. "What the heck was that for?"
"That was for being an idiot! Now please tell me you weren't being serious," Lil demanded. "Honestly, Phil. You cannot be serious."
The boy said nothing.
"Oh my God, you are being serious."
"Well, it's not like there are flocks of girls after me! I'm kind of a loser, you know!" Phil explained, "And yeah, you're my sister. You're supposed to say nice things. And you're also allowed to say mean things to me, but that's only because you're my sister." He turned away from her, apparently done with the conversation.
"Yeah, and on the other hand, I'm the smart one." Lil went on, following close after him. "That means I'm entitled to tell you the truth when you're too stupid to see it yourself, Romeo."
"Oh?" Phil mused. "And what exactly is the truth, Smart One? Please, enlighten me."
"Natalie Herman is the idiot."
"Okay, make up your mind, for God's sake! Seriously! Whose side are you on, anyway?" Phil grumbled, depositing himself onto the couch. "First I'm the idiot, then I'm not the idiot, I'm only stupid. Then Natalie is the idiot? This is supposed to make me feel better, how?"
"You're both idiots," Lil clarified, claiming the spot beside him.
"Ah. Well, there we go. Thank you. I feel a lot better, Dr. Lil." Phil reached for the remote and flicked the television on, surfing the channels much too quick to actually figure out what was playing on any station. It was probably just for distractions, Lil figured, but Phil did not want her to realize this. He hated how smart she could be sometimes. "Now that you've worked your magic, how about you leave me here to ponder over how I'm an idiot, or whatever..."
"Phil, listen to me for a second."
"Hmm. Okay, second's over."
"Shut up, smart ass." She suddenly grabbed the remote out of his hands and hid it between her leg and the couch, out of his sight. This was the only way she would get his full attention, and they both knew it. She ignored his protests, and held a hand up to silence him. Amazingly, it worked. "What I'm saying is, you're both idiots but for different reasons."
Despite how uninterested he wanted to sound, his words betrayed his urge to know more. "Please explain."
"That girl was an idiot for a lot reasons, to be honest, but I'm only going to give you a few." Lil said, "First of all, going on a pity date? The worst idea anyone could ever have, ever! I mean, really. I thought girls knew they were supposed to just say no, instead of yes, even if they didn't want to hurt the guy's feelings. It's like one of those new girl-laws. She probably didn't mean things to end up so bad, and was probably surprised to see things end up so good."
"She probably didn't expect you to be a likely candidate for a pleasant evening and an impressive date." Lil explained, "Which brings me to my next point. After all, she did tell you she thought you were a gentleman, right? And nice, and sweet, and...kind of cute, was it?"
"Yeah. But she probably didn't mean that stuff, either!"
"Of course she did! You're not ugly, Phil. If anyone would know that, it's me." Lil said, "I'm your twin, after all. We look kind of the same. And believe me when I say, I am very good looking."
"I don't know...are you trying to make me feel better, or you?" Phil joked.
"Shut up. Anyway, you are a gentleman. I might have given you some tips, but you could have gotten there and blown the whole thing! You did all the polite things, but you really didn't even need to ask me for my help. You already know all those things yourself, and don't you dare deny that. If you had no gentleman-ly skills in the first place, I never would have been able to train you in just one day. That was all you, little brother."
"And you're very modest, too." Lil laughed, "And you are nice. And sweet. And loyal. You're the loyalest guy I've ever met, Phil. And I'm not just saying that because I'm your sister. You know I would tell you the truth if I didn't believe what I was saying. So you've got to believe what I'm saying, too, because I would never lie to you, and you know that."
"What can I say," Phil mused after a moment. "You have a pretty good record so far."
"Exactly. I'm right. And I'm right when I tell you that that girl is not just an idiot, but a moron and you deserve a sincere apology from her." Lil continued, "I guess it was nice that she admitted she felt bad for what she did, and for letting you to believe that she wanted to be there in the first place, but she should also recognize how messed up it is what she did and just come and say her sorries to you like a mature woman would."
"She did say sorry," Phil supplied, boredly. "At the restaurant. Right after I started to tear up for the first time and embarrass myself."
"You deserve better than that, Phil. I hope that she realizes that because if I see her, I'm gonna make her come crying to you."
"You don't have to beat her up, Lil!" Phil screeched, alarmed. "Honestly, it's not that big a deal. I can take care of it, myself."
"Obviously you can't," Lil denied. "So I will if she doesn't herself. Because that girl's a jerk. I'm sure we both can agree to that. And to finish what I was saying, she's an absolute moron for ever doubting you. And if she actually was starting to like you, she should have just kept her mouth shut! She ruined everything for herself, and for you. She lost you, and now she's gonna pay for it."
"You make it sound like I'm a lost puppy."
"You are like a puppy," answered Lil with a laugh, patting him on the head. He smacked her hand away, annoyed, and she went on, "Anyway, she's an idiot. For a hundred reasons, but I know you don't want to hear them all."
"You are correct," Phil agreed. "Now tell me how I'm an idiot so I can go to sleep."
"You're not an idiot for asking her out like you keep saying," Lil said. "You're an idiot because you keep doubting yourself, just as much as she did. Actually, you're like a double idiot because you doubt yourself a heck of a lot more than she probably ever could have."
"Okay, so...Natalie's a moron. I'm a double idiot. This date should have never happened, and you're going to beat her up. Right," Phil nodded, pushing himself lazily off the couch. "Eye opening. Thanks. I'm going to bed, now."
"Would you sit down?" Lil ordered, "Jeeze!"
"Oh, I'm sorry," Phil apologized. "Were you not finished explaining to me how the universe works?"
"Sit down, loverboy! Or I'll kick you so hard you're gonna wish you were back on your date," Lil threatened.
"All right, all right!" Phil surrendered. "I'll sit down. Just don't hurt me."
"Good," Lil waited until her brother was seated impatiently beside her before she began. "Now that we've covered that she's a stupid jerk, and you're an idiot, can we please just make a deal here and now?"
"What?" Phil groaned. "And don't say we're making a deal for you to kick her butt, because I really can't handle any more humiliation!"
"The deal is...from now on, I don't want to hear you saying anything bad about yourself. And no giving up. Dating is a difficult, complex, and mysterious thing to figure out, bro. It's not easy, but it's possible, and you'll figure it out someday. Heck, not even I understand how guys work! But it's not like you're supposed to hurry up and get married tomorrow, either."
"And it's not like you aren't capable of being attractive to girls. Why, I know of someone who's been looking at you in a new way recently. So, you don't need to try that hard to find one. So, let's agree to stay out of eachother's love lives from now on, let things play themselves out and only intervene when absolutely necessary."
"That sounds like a good idea."
"But let's also agree not to let love and its evil ways take over our minds and make us stupid," Lil added. "Or blind. Like it made you."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm handsome. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever," Phil agreed. "Let's just shake on it, already."
"Hold on there, mister!" Lil chuckled. "There's another part of the deal we still got to discuss."
"What could it possibly be this time?" Phil groaned.
"We both agree that first dates are a mess and don't need to turn us into zombies. We forget this whole thing ever happened, laugh about it, and agree that Natalie Herman is a jerk that deserves to suffer a long and horrible life amongst only butt ugly boys with zits taller than Angelica's lies." Lil stuck her hand out in front of him, "So, what do you say little bro?"
"I say...you are very convincing, Lillian." Phil, skeptical that he possessed the power to forget about his terrible evening and move on so quickly, but also glad that his sister made an awful lot of sense about everything, and was genuinely trying to make him feel better, took her hand and shook it.
"Good. Now, let's go give that stomach of yours some real food so it will shut up," Lil said, pushing herself off from her seat on the couch and motioning him to follow. "No reason to let a perfectly good evening, and a perfectly good gentleman go to waste, right?" She waltzed into the kitchen, and ordered her brother to stay in his nice clothes and set the table. "In a fancy manner," she added. "We've got to make it look good."
"Yes, master." He said. Then, "Wait...did you say something about a girl?"
"Ooh. You heard that, huh? You're a little late."
"Lil! Somebody likes me, you better tell me!"
"Sorry, bro. But we agreed to stay out of eachother's love lives, and let things happen on their own, remember?" Lil, knowing that her brother would never figure it out himself, decided to throw him a bone and added, "No more playing match-maker for me. But if you're still blind by the end of the week, which you will be...I might give you a hint. Now go do your job. That table isn't going to set itself."
Fifteen minutes later, Lil, now dressed in appropriate clothing (he said she looked 'nice'), and Phil, amused as ever, made their way out of the kitchen and into the dining area. The table was set, utensils out, beverages poured (apple cider, because they weren't allowed to have real wine), and their plates were decorated with the most scrumptious looking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches they both had ever seen. Maybe a little tacky, but it wasn't as if they had the money to order an eight-course meal. This would have to do, and they had no doubts their dinner would hit the spot.
"Well, I hate to say it, sis." Phil congratulated, "but that looks pretty delicious."
"It does, doesn't it." Lil admired, "I worked so hard on them to make them just right." The evidance was there. The crusts cut off, and the sandwiches cut neatly into perfect diagonal halves. They were like a work of art, she was almost afraid to take a bite.
"Let me get your chair," Phil suddenly said.
"Oh," Lil mused, as her brother came 'round the table and pulled out her chair for her. "What a gentleman!"
"I learned from the master of manners," Phil said. "If I didn't get it right, she'd whip me."
"Oh, shut up," Lil admonished, rolling her eyes. She reached for her fork, prepared to cut her sandwich into smaller bites and eat them as fancily as possible. "Don't make me throw this perfectly cut sandwich at you. That would ruin its perfection."
After a while, their plates were empty, only crumbs in place of where their sandwiches once used to be. They had been just as delightful to eat as they had been to look at, courtesy of Lil's incredible sandwich-making ability. ("Mom taught me well, little brother.") Now, their bellies satisfied, their moods significantly higher, the two were sitting, chatting casually. The candle that Lil had found to adorn the table was flickering with life, and as far as the twins were concerned, no other human did exist.
"And then what happened?" Phil asked. He'd been asking his sister to fill him in on what happened on the Yu-Gotta-Go special he'd missed while he was out embarrassing himself.
"Oh my God, you wouldn't believe it. It's so cool! You just got to see it for yourself," Lil said. "They're probably gonna air it tomorrow. We can watch it then."
"Cool," Phil said. Then, "Hey, wait. What about the dance?"
"What about it?"
"Isn't it tomorrow night?
"So...I thought you were going."
"And miss out on Yu-Gotta-Go with my brother?" Lil scoffed, "Fat chance!"
"But you've been talking about this dance for weeks! I thought you got a dress for it, and everything!" Phil wondered. He was touched that his sister would give that all up for him, but really didn't think it was fair. After all, she'd done enough for him tonight as it were.
"Yeah, but I was thinking about not going anyway."
"Why? I thought you wanted to go out with that one guy," Phil asked.
"Nah, he's going with someone else. Besides, that dance is just going to be like the last dance, and the dance before that."
Phil nodded, but said nothing.
"Nothing, just..." The boy took a minute, debating whether he should even bring her up, but then decided to anyway. "I was gonna ask Natalie to go to the dance with me...if things worked out, you know. If she hadn't told me what she was there for in the first place."
"Well, if you really want to go..."
"Yeah, right! I'm not taking my sister to the dance! What do you think I am, desperate?"
"I was merely suggesting," Lil laughed.
"I'm glad I'm not going."
"Because...I hate dancing," Phil laughed.
"So, it's settled. We screw the dance!" Lil cheered, "We don't need awkward dance numbers, poorly picked out songs or staff supervision to have fun! We can have a better party here, ourselves."
"I can drink to that, sis!" Phil said, grabbing for his cider and holding it up in the air.
Lil clanked her drink against and they exchanged cheers, knowing that as long as they had eachother for company, they would be all right.