Rules of attraction, p.26
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Rules of Attraction, p.26

         Part #2 of Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles
Page 26


  “He made it clear when he came to live with us a few years back. His parents were in the middle of a messy divorce and he needed a place to stay. ” He puts down his flashlight and looks over at me. “Kinda like you needed a place to stay. ”

  “Speakin’ of that: you might regret your decision after I tell you that Kiara and I have been hangin’ out a lot. ”

  “That’s good. Why would that make me regret letting you stay here?”

  I wish we weren’t under a car right now as I’m sayin’ this. “What if I told you I kissed her?”

  “Oh,” he says. “I see. ”

  I wonder if he has the urge to tie me under the car and drop it on me so my guts splatter all over his driveway. Or make me drink the dirty car oil until I promise to keep my Mexican paws off his daughter.

  “You were probably gonna find out sooner or later from someone else,” I tell him.

  “I appreciate your honesty, Carlos. That shows integrity, and I’m proud of you. It probably wasn’t easy for you to tell me. ”

  “So are you kickin’ me out of your house, or what?” I need to know if I’ll be out on the streets tonight.

  Westford shakes his head. “No, I’m not kicking you out. You’re both old enough to be responsible. I was a teenager once, too, and I’m not naive enough to think kids today are any different than I was. But you better not hurt one hair on her head or force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do, or else I will not only kick you out of the house, I’ll dismember you limb by limb. Got it?”

  “Got it. ”

  “Good. Now take this flashlight and check the radiator to see if I need to flush it. ”

  I take the flashlight from him, but before I get out from under the car I say, “Thanks. ”

  “For what?”

  “Not treatin’ me like a gangbanger. ”

  He smiles. “You’re welcome. ”

  After I help Westford with the car, I call Mamá and Luis. I tell them about the Ultimate game, and Kiara, and the Westfords, and all the other bullshit. It feels good to talk to mi familia. When I tell them I haven’t ditched school I feel like I have a family cheering section. I haven’t felt that way in a long time. Obviously I leave out the part about Devlin, because there’s no way I’m putting miamá through the stress of knowing that detail.

  After the call, I walk into the kitchen but there’s no sign of any Westford. “We’re in the den,” Mrs. W. calls out to me. “Come join us. ”

  The entire Westford family is sitting in front of the television in the small room off to the side of the house. The professor and his wife are in separate chairs, and Kiara and Brandon are sharing the couch. Slices of lasagna are set on the coffee table in front of them.

  “Take a plate, some lasagna, and a seat,” Westford instructs.

  “It’s Family Fun Night!” Brandon yells as he jumps up and down on the couch.

  “Family Fun Night?” I question. “What’s that?”

  Mrs. W. picks up a plate and hands it to me. “It’s where we pick an activity and do it together, as a family. It’s a once-a-month thing we do. ”

  “You guys are kiddin’ me, right?” I look around at all of them and realize they’re not joking. They really do have Family Fun Night, and they really do want to hang out together on a Saturday night.

  When I look over at Kiara, I think it wouldn’t be so bad to spend the night just chilling in front of the TV. I pile my plate with food and head for the couch.

  “Move over, cachorro. ”

  Brandon scoots between me and Kiara.

  After we finish dinner, I help bring the dirty plates to the kitchen while Kiara makes the popcorn.

  “You don’t have to do all this family stuff with us if you don’t want to,” Kiara tells me.

  I shrug. “I didn’t want to go out anyway. ” I toss a piece of popcorn into the air and catch it in my mouth.

  I walk back in the family room with my mind more on Kiara than anything else. Even when the cartoon movie comes on that Brandon picked, I sneak glances at her.

  “Bran, time for bed,” Mrs. W. says after the movie is over.

  “I want to stay up,” he whines, then grabs on to Kiara’s arm.

  “No way. You’ve been going to bed too late,” Mrs. Westford says. “Now give your sister and Carlos a hug and come with me. ”

  Brandon stands on the couch and whips himself into Kiara’s arms. She hugs him tight and kisses him on the cheek. “Love you more than you love me,” he tells her.

  “Not possible,” she says back.

  He wiggles out of her arms and hops on the couch over to my side. He opens his arms wide and wraps them around my neck. “Love you, amigo. ”

  “You speakin’ Español, cachorro?”

  “Yeah. I learned it in class this week. Amigo is friend. ”

  I pat him on the back. “You are my little Mexicano wannabe, aren’t you?”

  “What’s a wannabe?”

  “He’ll explain it in the morning. Time for bed, Bran,” Mrs. W. says. “Now. No more wasting time. ”

  “You kids pick the next movie,” Westford says, tossing us the remote. “I’m going to make more popcorn. Bran, I’ll be up to say good night after you get in pj’s and brush your teeth. ”

  Mrs. W. takes Brandon upstairs and the Professor leaves with the empty popcorn bowls. I’m alone with Kiara. At last.

  I sit with one arm over the back of the couch and the other resting on my knee. I’m all too aware of this girl beside me. She gets up and walks over to a cabinet lined with rows of movies—obviously the Westfords’ personal collection. I’ve never been in a house with an entire collection of movies before.

  “I can’t be normal with you,” I tell her.

  She turns to me, confused. “What are you talking about?”

  “This morning in front of Michael you asked me to be normal. ” I take a deep breath and tell her what I should have said after the game. Instead of lettin’ her ignore me when I finally got home, I should have told her the truth. “I can’t. When Tuck told me you’d dated Michael, all these visions of you with another guy drove me nuts. I don’t want you with another guy. ”

  “I don’t want to be with another guy. I want to be with you. Now pick a movie before I say something you don’t want to hear. ” She waves me over. “Pick one. ”

  “Whatever you want to watch is fine,” I tell her, pushing aside the comment about her not telling me what I don’t want to hear. I’ve heard enough. She wants to be with me. I want to be with her. Why complicate it by sayin’ anything else?

  She pulls out West Side Story and I laugh. “You like that movie?”

  “Yeah. I like the dancing. And the singing. ”

  I wonder if she can move as well as she fixes cars. Or if she thinks an interracial couple is doomed because they’re too different. “Do you dance?”

  “A little. Do you? I mean besides the, um, horizontal tango. ”

  Kiara surprises me sometimes. I’m always shocked when she shows glimpses of her spicy attitude. “Yeah. Back in Mexico my friends and I went to clubs every weekend. We danced, met girls, drank, got high . . . fun stuff. Now I’m here, having Family Fun Night with the Westfords. Times have definitely changed. ”

  “You shouldn’t do drugs. ”

  “Don’t you do things you shouldn’t do? Come on, Kiara, give it up. There’s no way you’re as innocent as you let everyone think you are. You’re just like the rest of us sinners. So you don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. But you have other vices. Everyone does. ” When she doesn’t answer, I continue. “Tell me somethin’ you do that would shock me. ”

  She sits back on the couch. “Shock you?”

  “Yeah. Shock me to the core. ”

  She sits up on her knees and leans toward me. “I’ve thought about you, Carlos,” she whispers in my ear. “At night, in bed. I think about kissing you, our tongues sliding against each other’s, while your hands
are buried in my hair. When I think about feeling those ripples in your naked chest I touch my—”

  “Here’s more popcorn!” Westford says, barging into the room with two big bowls filled to the rim with freshly popped popcorn. “Kiara, what are you doing?”

  The scene must look pretty racy. Kiara is leaning over me on all fours. Her face is just inches from mine.

  I swallow. What she was about to say formed an image in my mind that was almost too much to bear. I stare right into Kiara’s eyes to see if she’s bullshitting me or not, but I can’t tell. She’s got a fire in her eyes, but I’m not sure if it’s from passion or from her excitement at trying to beat me with my own MO.

  I stay silent and let Kiara take this one.

  She leans back on her heels. “Um . . . I . . . um . . . nothing really. ”

  Westford looks to me for an explanation.

  “Trust me, you don’t want to know,” I tell him.

  “Know what?” Mrs. W. asks, walking into the room.

  The Professor hands me the bowl of popcorn as Mrs. W. settles back in her chair. I start munchin’ so I don’t have to talk.

  “I can’t get a straight answer out of either one of these teenagers,” Westford says.

  Kiara settles herself on the other side of the couch. “Mom, Dad, what would you do if you came in here and found us kissing?”



  I really meant to ask the question as a hypothetical. I didn’t mean for Carlos to start choking on his popcorn, which he is.

  “You okay?” I ask him as he coughs repeatedly.

  Carlos looks at me like I’m the craziest person on the planet. “What the hell are you askin’ them that for?”

  “Because I want to know the answer. ”

  I can tell my parents are trying to telepathically communicate to each other to come up with an answer.

  “Well . . . ,” my mom starts. “Um . . . ”

  “What your mother is trying to say,” my dad chimes in, “is that we were teenagers once upon a time, too, so we understand that experimentation is a normal part of growing up . . . ”

  “And you know to always respect yourself and your bodies,” my mom says. I suspect she’s not answering the question on purpose.

  “Yes, Mother. ”

  My dad picks up the remote. “Okay, now that that’s settled, which movie did you pick?”

  I get a little shy when I say, “West Side Story. ”

  We watch the movie, but every now and then Carlos snickers as if some of the parts are ridiculous to him. By the end, I’m crying so hard Carlos has to pass me a tissue from the end table nearest him.

  “Pass me one of those tissues, too,” my mom says as she sniffs away. “I cry every time I see that movie. ”

  “I hate the ending,” I declare to everyone in the room as I take the movie out of the player and replace it with another one.

  My dad turns around to face Carlos. “What can I say? My women want a happy ending. ”

Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Add comment

Add comment