Rules of attraction, p.24
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       Rules of Attraction, p.24

         Part #2 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
 
Page 24

 

  Antoine has set up a little stage in the front of the room. “You two,” he says, pointing to us. “Stand here and pose. ”

  Carlos gets on the stage first, then grabs my hand and helps me up. “Now what?” Carlos asks.

  “We’re supposed to pose,” I whisper.

  “How?”

  Antoine pounds his hand on the stage, getting our attention. “I’ll tell you how. Kiara, grab his shoulders. Carlos, hold her around her waist. ”

  We do as he instructs. “Like this?” I ask, trying to ignore what Carlos’s hands feel like holding me.

  “You look like you’re afraid to get close to each other,” Antoine says. “You’re too stiff. Kiara, lean toward Carlos with your upper body. Yes, that’s it. Now bend one knee . . . Carlos, make sure you support her weight or else she’ll fall . . . Kiara, look up at him as if you’re in love, waiting for that promise of a kiss . . . and Carlos, you look down at her as if Kiara is the cowgirl you’ve been waiting for your entire life. Perfect!” he says. “Now don’t move for the next half hour. ” He turns to the residents of The Highlands and talks about silhouettes and the human form . . . but all I can do is get lost in Carlos’s eyes.

  “You were great with the residents,” I tell him. “I appreciate you being here. ”

  “And I appreciate you wearin’ that dress. ”

  For the next half hour as we’re trying not to move, I’m gazing into Carlos’s deep dark eyes and he’s looking into mine. Even though my body is starting to feel stiff, I feel safe and happy. There’s nothing else I can do except to say, “I’ve made a decision. ”

  “About what?”

  “Us. I’d like us to hang out more. ”

  He cocks a brow. “Really?”

  “Yeah. ”

  “Are we gonna shake on it?”

  “My hands are kind of busy at the moment,” I tell him.

  He smiles, that cocky smile that’s so a part of him he wouldn’t be Carlos without it. “Your hands might be busy, but your lips aren’t. ”

  33

  Carlos

  Most mornings, I’m awakened by Brandon’s voice singing one of his usual songs, which gets stuck in my head—“Good morning to you, good morning to you. We’re all in our places with bright shining faces. And this is the way, we start a new day!” It could drive anyone insane.

  No, today it’s not Kiara’s little brother who wakes me up. It’s Tuck’s voice bellowing in the hallway. “La cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puede caminar, porque no tiene, porque le falta, I don’t know the rest la la la la!”

  And while Brandon doesn’t mean to annoy me, Tuck’s reason for living might just be to piss me off.

  “Don’t you ever shut up?” I yell, hoping he can hear me out in the hallway.

  “Hey, amigo,” Tuck says, opening the door. “Rise and shine!”

  I pick up my head. “Didn’t I lock the door to keep people like you out?”

  He holds up a bent paper clip and wiggles it. “Yep. Lucky for me I know how to use the magic door-opener. ”

  “Get out. ”

  “I need your help, amigo. ”

  “No. Get out. ”

  “Do you hate me so much because Kiara likes me better than you?”

  “Not for long. Get the fuck out. Now,” I tell him. The guy doesn’t move.

  “Okay, seriously, I don’t know if this is true or not, but I heard people who use profanity are trying to compensate for their lack of, you know, size. ”

  I whip off the covers and jump out of bed and chase him into the hallway, but he’s gone.

  Kiara’s door is suspiciously open. “Where is he?” I ask her.

  “Um . . . ,” she says.

  I scan her room, then open her closet door. Sure enough, Tuck is standing inside. “I was just kidding. Can’t you take a joke, man?” he says.

  “Not at seven in the mornin’. ”

  He laughs. “Put some clothes on so you don’t scare poor Kiara with your morning hard-on. ”

  I look down at my shorts. Sure enough, I’ve got la tengo dura in front of Kiara and Tuck. Shit. I reach out for the first thing I can grab and put it in front of me to shield myself from view. It happens to be one of Kiara’s stuffed animals, but I don’t have much choice right now.

  “That’s Kiara’s Mojo,” Tuck says, laughing. “Get it? Mojo?”

  Without a word, I rush back to my room and toss Mojo on the floor. Knowing Kiara, she’ll probably make me buy her a new stuffed animal.

  I sit on my bed, wondering how I’m going to get closer to Kiara with Tuck in the picture, and wondering why I even want to. I like kissin’ her, that’s all. A knock at my door interrupts my thoughts.

  “What do you want?” I say, the words coming out as a growl.

  “It’s Kiara. ”

  “. . . and Tuck,” comes another voice.

  I open the door. “He wants to apologize,” Kiara says.

  “I am very sorry I opened your door without permission,” Tuck says as if he’s a little kid sent to apologize by his mother. “I promise not to do it ever again. Please forgive me. ”

  “Fine. ” I start to close the door, but Kiara puts her palm on it.

  “Wait. Tuck really does need your help, Carlos. ”

  “With what?”

  “My Ultimate team only has six players and we need seven. We have three people out with the flu, and two more got hurt in the quarterfinals and can’t play. Kiara thinks you’d be halfway decent. ”

  Halfway decent? “Why don’t you play?” I ask Kiara. “You’re athletic. ”

  “It’s not a coed team,” she tells me. “It’s an all-male team. ”

  Tuck holds his palms together in a praying position, and I can just sense the bullshit about to fly. “Please, amigo. We need you, Kimosabe, O Mighty Powerful One. We need you more than the earth rises in the west. ”

  “The sun rises in the east, dickhead. ”

  “Only if you’re standing on the earth. If you’re on the moon, the earth rises in the west. ” He takes a deep breath. “All right, I’m done sucking up. You in or out? The game starts in less than a half hour and I need to know if we have to forfeit or not. Unfortunately, you’re probably our only hope. ”

  I look at Kiara.

  “Tuck really needs your help,” she says. “I’ll come watch. ”

  “Fine, I’ll do it. I’ll do it for you,” I tell her.

  “Wait, what . . . what is he talking about that he’ll do it for you?” Tuck looks from me to Kiara, but neither of us say a word. “Is anyone going to tell me what’s going on here?”

  “Nope. Give me five minutes,” I tell them.

  On the drive to the game, Kiara insists I call my brother and ask him to come to the game. “Just call him,” she says. “Or I will. ”

  “Maybe I don’t want him there. ”

  She holds out her cell. “Maybe you want him there so bad, but you’re too stubborn to admit it. I dare you. ”

  Now why did she have to go and do that?

  I grab the phone out of her hand and call my brother. I tell him about the game, and without hesitation he says he’ll be there.

  After I hang up and toss the cell back to Kiara, Tuck goes over the rules with me. I focus on the important ones: once I catch the Frisbee I have to stop and throw it to another teammate within ten seconds.

  “This isn’t a contact sport, Carlos,” Tuck reminds me for the, like, tenth time. “So if you feel like punching, pushing, or fighting with someone, make sure it’s after the game. ”

  On the field, Tuck introduces me to our team. A thought keeps running through my head: if I help Tuck’s team win, will Kiara think I’m a hero?

  I’m practicing with the guys in the minutes before the game. Even though I haven’t thrown a disc in a few years, I have no problem makin’ it sail through the air to my teammate.

  One of the guys on my team runs past me, winks at me, then smacks
me on the ass.

  What the hell was that, some sort of Ultimate ritual? I don’t do rituals that involve other guys’ hands on my ass.

  I walk over to Tuck, who’s stretching out on the sidelines. “Am I delusional, or was that guy hitting on me?”

  “His name’s Larry. Don’t ask me why, but he thinks you’re hot. He hasn’t stopped drooling since you got here. Just don’t lead him on. ”

  “Don’t worry. ”

  “Here. ” Tuck reaches into his duffel and tosses me a shirt. “It’s our team uniform. ”

  I hold it out in front of me. “It’s pink. ”

  “You got something against pink?”

  “Yeah. It’s gay. ”

  Tuck smacks his lips together. “Um, yeah. Carlos, now’s probably a good time for me to tell you something. You’re probably not gonna like it. ”

  As Tuck talks, I take close inventory of my teammates. Dennis, a guy who looks mighty feminine. The guy who hit me on the ass is now biting on his lower lip as if he wants to get with me. And the pink shirts . . . “This is a team of gay dudes, isn’t it?”

  “What gave it away? The pink shirts, or half our team drooling over you?”

  I shove the shirt back in his hands. “I’m not doin’ this. ”

  “Calm down, Carlos. Playing on a team with gays doesn’t make you gay. Don’t be a homophobe. That’s so un-PC. ”

  “Ask me if I’ve ever given a shit about bein’ PC?”

  “Think of all the fans you’ll disappoint. Kiara . . . and your brother. ”

  I don’t know if my brother is laughing or cringing: all I know is that he’s givin’ me a thumbs-up from the bleachers. Brittany has suddenly shown up here, too. Kiara and Brittany have their heads huddled together, deep in conversation.

  I know I shouldn’t ask this, but I can’t help it. “What’s the name of our team?”

  “Ultimate Queers,” Tuck says, then starts laughing.

  I, on the other hand, am not laughin’.

  “What, you don’t like our team name? You’re one of us now, Carlos. ”

  I’m still not laughin’.

  He catches a practice toss from one of the other guys, then tosses it back. “Oh, and just so you know, before we go out on the field we all get in a huddle and yell ‘Go Queers!’ really loud. ”

  That’s it. “I’m quittin’. ”

  I start walking off the field. If anyone back home saw me, my ass would be kicked from Atencingo to Acapulco and back again.

  “I’m just kidding, man,” Tuck calls after me.

  I stop.

  “And our name isn’t Ultimate Queers. ” He holds his hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay, truth is we don’t yell ‘Go Queers,’ although Joe over there with the spiked hair suggested it at the beginning of the season. Our team name is The Ultimates. We couldn’t come up with a cool name, so Larry came up with The Ultimates and that’s what we’ve been ever since. Happy now?”

 
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