A Deal’s a Deal
I thought about confronting my dad about the whole Brazil-Dubai thing, but Mom totally covered for him during the video chat. She said she was in Brazil yesterday and had just flown to Dubai that morning. That explained it, right? Wrong. Dad didn’t say she went to Brazil and then Dubai. He specifically said Dubai was in Brazil. There was definitely something else going on.
Every Saturday afternoon we all gathered around the computer screen and talked with my long-distance mother so we could pretend like we were a family. I thought about taking Tai’s advice and asking her about hot flashes, but how could I do that in front of my three brothers and my dad? It just wasn’t going to happen. Besides, the Saturday chats never turned into anything productive. We usually just ended up fighting. It was annoying to have to interrupt my day for a woman who couldn’t care less about me.
“So, what’s going on in your life, Priscilla?” my mother asked after talking to Josh about football practice and to the twins about their new dolls—I mean, action figures.
“What do you care?”
“Priscilla, you watch your tone,” my dad barked.
“It’s okay, Greg. She just asked a question.” My mother took a deep breath and gathered her long red hair into a tight ponytail. “Despite what you might think, I really do care about what goes on in your life. Now, didn’t you have a pool party today? Why don’t you tell me how it went?”
“If you really care about what goes on in my life, how about being around more often than the seasons change? Why can’t you be a normal mother and go to PTA meetings and back-to-school shopping with your children?” My mother pushed her glasses farther up her nose. Nothing ever flustered her, not even my scathing sarcasm. Just once I’d love to see some emotion from her. But, no, she never lost her cool. Everyone left that to Dad.
“That’s it, Priss. I’ve had enough of you,” my father yelled. “Apologize right now then go to your room!”
“Sorry … Mother.” I hoped she put those two words together and got the true meaning of that sentence.
The next morning I woke up with a headache the size of Josh’s ego. My eyes hurt, my ears hurt, and my whole body tingled. It kinda felt like sharp little bugs were crawling around in my body and trying to escape through my skin. I decided I needed to soak in a hot bath.
When I got to the bathroom, Josh was just stepping out surrounded by swirling steam like he was coming out of a sauna or something. I bet he’d used up all the hot water … again. He was such a prima donna, spending literally hours in the bathroom every day.
“Stupid meat head!” I yelled after I felt the frigid water. I let it run for a while and it wasn’t getting any warmer. Then I had an idea. I might as well put this fire thing to good use. I filled the tub, then tried to think hot thoughts. Nothing. Okay, what did I do the other two times it happened? Nothing. It just happened. Then I remembered something. Both times I had the hot flashes, I was thinking about Spencer Callahan and how much … whoa, that brought the heat. I stuck my hands in the water just long enough to get it nice and toasty.
This might not be so bad after all. But if I was going to use this fire thing to my advantage, I really had to learn how to control it. I had to figure out a way to bring the heat without thinking about Spencer.
After spending the morning perfecting my fire-shooting technique, I headed to McMillan’s pharmacy. With my time of the month approaching, I really needed to buy some “supplies,” but after peeking through the window and seeing Trevor Callahan working the register, there was no way I was going in. I was not about to let the brother of my dream boy catch me buying those God-awful things.
I was just about to give up and go home when I saw Kyle ride by on his bike.
“Hey, Kyle, you up for a challenge?” I called out to him.
“What’d you have in mind?” He turned and rode up to the store front.
“Race to town square gazebo and back.”
“Bikes or feet?”
I looked him up and down. As usual, Kyle was dressed a little too nicely for a lazy Sunday afternoon in River’s Bend. He always wore these fancy Italian shirts that probably cost way too much money, along with pleated pants. He looked good, but like I said before, too preppy for my taste. He even had a pair of shiny brown loafers on. Loafers. Who wears loafers to ride their bike? That’s when I made my decision.
“Feet.” He’d never be able to keep up with me in those shoes.
“What are the stakes?” he asked.
“If you win, I’ll give you back that Spider-Man comic you lost to me last week.”
Kyle smoothed a wrinkle out of his shirt and pretended like he wasn’t intrigued. That was his favorite comic and I knew he wanted it back.
“If I win, I get the comic and you get poop duty for a month.”
“You mean you’re not potty trained yet, Kyle?” I said with a smirk.
He glared at me. “You know what I mean.”
I knew what he meant. I just like messing with him. He meant poop duty for our dog, Max Montgomery. Max was a cute little chocolate lab that we found by the river when we were little. We took him home and named him Max after my middle name, Maxine, and Montgomery after Kyle’s last name. Then we took turns taking care of him until one day Max got tired of being tormented by the twins and stayed at Kyle’s house permanently. So I just went over every day to help.
“Fine, but if I win, you have to buy me something from McMillan’s.”
“Is that all? Deal, Slumner. You’re on.”
Two minutes and forty three seconds later, I had him beat.
“You’re pretty fast … for a girl,” he panted with his hands on his knees. He always had to add that “for a girl” part whenever I beat him. It made me so mad.
“Whatever, Kyle. I beat you fair and square.”
“Fine,” he said, standing up straight. “What do I have to buy for you?” He ran his fingers through his blond hair, which still looked perfectly styled even after running three blocks and back. How did he do that?
I stood on my tip-toes and whispered in his ear.
“Oh no, no, no. God, no. No way, Slumner.”
“You have to. I beat you. A deal’s a deal.”
“Fine,” he said, snatching the ten dollar bill out of my hands and storming into the store.
I watched through the window as Kyle made his way to the female aisle. I could tell by the shade of crimson that crept over his face that he’d never been there before.
Why the heck are there so many choices? a voice in my head said. Wait a minute. It wasn’t in my head. It was Kyle. I could hear him from inside the store. He whispered to himself as he turned around in circles. I think he was sweating more than when we were running through town. Long, thin, regular, super, dry weave, and wings. Wings? Who needs wings? Is she buying a maxi pad or a magic fairy that lives in her pants?
I had to cover my mouth to hold in a giggle. I should make Kyle buy these things for me all the time. It was much more entertaining.
“Thinking about buying some more bad salsa?” a voice said from behind. I spun around and stared into the beautiful baby blue eyes of Spencer Callahan.
A rush of heat filled me as I saw his perfect, pink, plump lips curve into a smile. He had apparently just skateboarded down Main Street so he was a little out of breath, so instead of breathing he was more like panting, and every time he exhaled, my bangs blew off of my forehead. That’s how close he was standing to me. I could smell his Mentos-scented breath, and it made me weak.
I thought I would faint, but then a hot flash woke me up. Oh snap! What would I do now? An image of a snake popped in my head, a poisonous snake. If a snake bit itself, would it die? No. It would be immune to its own venom. With that thought in mind, I clasped my hands together like I was about to sing “Mary Had Little Lamb” at a kindergarten recital. It stung a little, but I didn’t burst into flames. And I hoped Spencer didn’t notice the thin stream of smoke rising from my hands.
“Bad salsa?” I asked, trying to figure out what the heck he was talking about. Then it hit me. That was my stupid response at the pool party. “Oh, I don’t know. I’m thinking about expanding my condiment options. I’m looking into bad ketchup, bad mustard, and bad guacamole.”
Spencer chuckled. “That was funny. That was really funny, Priss.” He stared at me as if he was shocked that I could say something funny. Actually, I was shocked, too. “Anyway, what I wanted to ask you—”
Just then, Kyle burst through the door and shoved a package into my chest.
“I hate you, by the way,” he muttered before doing that little shiver people do when they think something is really gross. He hopped on his bike and said, “I think I need a shower,” before speeding off.
“What was that about?” Spencer said, looking from me to where Kyle was riding off. Thankfully, my supplies were wrapped up in a brown paper bag so he couldn’t tell what they were.
I shrugged. “Just Kyle being cranky, I guess. I think the peroxide from all that hair dye is seeping into his head.”
Spencer laughed at that, but I actually felt kinda bad that I’d said something so mean about Kyle. He was a jerk most of the time, but I still considered him a friend. Kind of.
“Anyway,” he said, “I’m having a few friends over tomorrow night. Kinda to celebrate our last night of freedom before school starts. Why don’t you come?”
Did he just ask me to his house? That’s like a date kinda, right? I was going on a date with Spencer Callahan! I was too shocked to say anything so I just nodded.
“Sweet. We’re gonna start at like five after my dad finishes his Labor Day party stuff. We’ll just watch some movies or something.” He picked up his skateboard then pushed the door of the pharmacy open. “Is Tai back in town yet?” he asked before entering.
“Her flight gets in tomorrow morning,” I said, surprised that my lips still worked. I couldn’t believe I was going on a date with Spencer Callahan.
“Sweet. She can come, too.”
Oh my God. I was seriously going to faint. How nice of him to invite my best friend too!
I plopped the package into the Batgirl basket at the front of my bike and prepared to hustle back home. I told my dad I was only going to get an ice cream at Willie’s Sweet Shop so I literally had about two minutes and thirteen seconds before he sent Josh looking for me or, worse, he came for me himself. The last time that happened, he ended up busting into the library with tears in his eyes, sweeping me up into a bear hug and totally pulling me away from a classic Ms. Marvel comic. He said that when I didn’t come home on time, he got worried. Hmph. Now that I thought about it, he really did worry about me a lot.
My dad really loved me. And despite his scary pro-wrestler appearance, he was extremely smart. I mean like Tai smart. He had degrees in biochemistry and engineering. Though nowadays the only time he had to use either was when the twins put a peanut butter sandwich in the DVD player. Dad took it apart, cleaned it, and then rewired it himself. He was a genius. Now if only he could figure out a way to rewire the twins into something less gross and annoying.
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