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Kim Pritekel and Alexa Hoffman

Part 4

I lightly tapped on the steering wheel to the funky beat of the newest Avril Lavigne song, liking the fun words and definite truths behind them. I remembered being a kid and not feeling like I fit in. This girl was far beyond her years in her realization of the way things were.

I was glad to be heading home, and especially on a Friday night. So, this meant I had two free days to myself, and a good, home cooked meal tonight at Rhonda's. Glancing up through the windshield, I could see that the sky was getting darker, a storm on its way. Lightning could be seen now and then off in the distance, but the distant rolls of thunder and the electric bolts were getting closer and closer in time, so it was coming.

As I cruised down Parish, I saw someone walking along the side of the street, something under their arm. As I got closer, and passed them, I realized it was Cody. She carried her skateboard under her arm.

Screeching to a halt in the dirt at the side of the busy road, I waited, rolling the passenger window down once she reached the car.

"Hey!" I called to her. The girl stopped, and glanced in the window. When she realized it was me, she leaned in on the window.

"What's up?" she asked.

"Nothing. Just heading home. What's with the walking?"

"Oh," she stood, and showed me her elbow and then her wheel, cracked in half, the jagged edges of the hard plastic a nasty reminder of the spill she took. I looked at her elbow again, bloody and turned into a pile of road rash. There were streaks of crimson where the blood had been draining down her arm.

"Oh my god! Get in." She hesitated for a moment, then opened the door, and flopped down in the seat. My eyes immediately went down the length of her Army-green cargo shorts that reached her knees, seeing the meat that was once the side of her calf, her sock already stained red. "Jesus, Cody. You really should try and be more careful." My brows drew in concern; she just shrugged.

"First time I've biffed it in three years."

"Okay, not bad. Why did your wheel break?" I asked as I got us back onto the main stretch. She brought the board up, turning what was left of the wheel on its axis.

"I don't know," she said absently. I took in the long-sleeved white shirt with an Army-green tee over it, and of course, the shorts and tan Vans.

"Aren't you cold?" I thought of my own clothing, black dress pants, and gray cashmere sweater. She shook her head.


"Oh. Okay."

"Good music. I'm kind of surprised." She motioned toward the car stereo.

"Why are you surprised?"

"Cause you're old." She snorted.

"Excuse me? Old?" She nodded, but as I glared at her, I saw the slightest bit of a smirk cross her lips. "So you like Avril Lavigne, huh?"

"Well, duh. She's one of us, dude."

"Oh, dude." I grinned as I tried out the term we used to use in college and high school. The rain began to pelt down, and I turned on the windshield wipers. "Listen, I have to stop off at my place to change before we head to your mom's, okay?"


"Yes, we. Your mom is having her dinner tonight." I glanced over at her, and she smacked herself in the forehead with her hand.

"Shit, I forgot."

"Well, good thing I picked you up then, huh?" She rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, great."

I pulled into my driveway, and turned off the engine. The rain was really coming down now. I turned to Cody.

"Ready?" She grinned, then at the same time, we both pushed open our doors, and ran toward the covered front porch of my house.

"Dude, you squeal like a girl!" she laughed as we finally reached it. I looked at her, seeing the way her long hair was already plastered to her scalp just from that short jaunt.

"Well, good to know, considering I am a girl." I grinned, then dug my keys out, and got the door unlocked. The cold wind and rain pushed us through the door. "Come on. Let's get you cleaned up."

She followed me up the stairs, and into the bathroom in my bedroom.

"Sit," I ordered, heading to my cabinet to once again grab the peroxide, gauze, cotton balls, band-aids and Neosporin for her.

"You know, I'm not sure what I'll owe you more for - bailing me out, or medical supplies."

I smiled, kneeling in front of her with the bag of cotton balls and bottle of peroxide.

"This is true." I smiled. "Do you want another pair of socks?" I asked, looking at the blood that had soaked through the sock on her left foot.

"Nah. I'll be fine until I get home." I glanced up at her.

"Are you sure? That can't be too comfortable." She shrugged, shaking her head.

"It's not the first time. I'm fine."

"Okay. Here we go." She sucked in her bottom lip as I applied the stinging peroxide, the wound bubbling like crazy. I glanced up at her, and saw her bite that bottom lip, the only indication that she felt anything. Though I did hear her breathe through her nose a few times, the breath skipping once or twice as I imagined fire raced through her leg.

As I worked on her leg, I thought about her comment on my being old. Did she really think that? I know when I was her age anything over twenty seemed old, but I wasn't old. I was up on the new fads and fashions, though I may not bother to wear them. For some reason I was bothered by this.

"So, let me ask you something, Cody,"


"If I'm old at 26, what does that make your mom?" I glanced up at her with a good-natured grin.

"Ancient," she said matter-of-factly. I shook my head and clicked my tongue.

"Someday you, too will be 'old' my friend."

"Nope. I don't plan to make it past thirty." My head snapped up and I looked at her.

"What? Why?" She shrugged.

"I'm having my fun now."

"I'm sure you are." Figuring it was just the talk of youth, I threw away the bloody cotton balls, and grabbed the Neosporin, and began to apply it to the angry-looking skin. "You sure did one hell of a job on yourself, Cody. Sorry." First time she had flinched. "This will probably leave a bit of a scar."

"It won't be my first."

"With your chosen activity, I seriously doubt it will be your last, either." I stood, smiling at her. "Let's see that elbow." She pushed up the sleeve of the longer shirt, and showed it to me. "Not as bad, but bad enough. So, how are things at the gallery?"

"Good. I made another sale the other day." I smiled at her.

"So I heard. Keith is ecstatic with you."

"There's a first." She snorted. "You guys date, right?" I nodded. "Even though he's a total queen?" I looked up at her sharply, my eyes narrowed until I saw the look on her face. She wasn't being mean, just stating a fact. I turned my attention back to her wound.

"Well, he's a bit feminine, yes."

"That doesn't bother you?"

"Why should it? He loves to shop and loves chick flicks." This actually made her laugh, the first time I'd ever heard her, in fact. I grinned up at her. She was shaking her head.

"I guess. Whatever floats your boat, dude."

"Do you have a boyfriend?"

"No." I looked up at her at the quickness of her answer. 'Don't need one." She gave me a quirky grin. "I have fun on my own terms."

"Oh," I looked back at her elbow, not saying anything more.

"Okay, you're good to go." I said, standing and closing everything up, Cody's leg bandaged with gauze, and three Band-Aids on her elbow. "I'm going to change, so feel free to look around."

She said nothing as she left the bathroom. I heard her footsteps on the stairs as she made her way down. I quickly stripped, thrilled at the idea of getting out of my "monkey suit." I actually did enjoy getting dressed up, I knew I looked good. But, even more than that, I loved putting on the comfy stuff. I grabbed a pair of faded, comfortable jeans, and a light gray cotton sweater, warm against the March chill. Lacing up my brown boots, I was ready to go.

I didn't hear anything as I headed downstairs, so I looked around, finally seeing Cody back in the solarium, the door open, holding something in her hands. She stood near a shelf that was lined with pieces I had made on my wheel, as well as pieces that a friend of mine who was a glassblower had made. She held one such piece in her hand. When she heard me walk toward her, she turned to me, raising the small tube for me to see.

"Cool, dude!" she exclaimed. "I didn't know you could actually be cool." Her grin was wide. I was confused.


"This. Nice, no one would be able to tell what it was. Does my mom know?"

As I stared at her like she was nuts, until it hit me what she thought it was.

"Cody, that's an incense burner." She looked down at it, then at me. "Not a bong." Slowly a smile spread across her face, wiping the confusion away with it.

"Well, I say tomayto you say tomahto." She put it back and looked at me. "You sure dress up for these things, don't you."

I looked down at myself, then at her. "What do you mean? I'm not dressed up. This is actually quite casual for me."

"Dude, if that's casual, then what do you do when you really dress up?" I put a hand on my hip.

"If you'd prefer, I do have a pair of sweats upstairs."

She shrugged. "Don't matter to me what you wear." She walked by me, picking up her skateboard from where it leaned against the wall. "Are we going?"

"Yup. Just let me grab my keys." I grabbed my purse, then stopped, turning to look at her. "Would you like a tour? I mean, it hasn't exactly been under pleasant circumstances either time that you've been here." The girl shrugged, her hands buried in the deep pockets of her shorts.

"Sure." I showed her the solarium, all my hanging plants and those that sat on the shelves I had made. "Who made this stuff?" she asked, looking at a figure I'd made years ago.

"I did." She looked at me.

"Really? You're a potter?" I nodded.

"I like to think so." I smiled at her, then led her through the rest of the house, showing her my pottery room upstairs, the walls lined with my works finished and drying.

"This is a really nice place," she said quietly as we headed downstairs.

"I love it here." I said, looking around proudly. "And since it's on six acres of land, I have no one to bother me."

"Damn! Who did you have to kill to get this place at your age?"

I just looked at her for a moment, a stab of pain slicing right through my heart. I looked away, and headed toward the front door.

"Just got lucky, I guess."

The drive to Rhonda's was pretty quiet, both of us lost in our own worlds until I thought of a question.

"So, what's your mom making?" Cody shrugged.

"Hell if I know. Why?"

"I'm starving! I haven't eaten anything since the bagel I had this morning."

"You don't eat lunch?" I shook my head. "Why?"

"Usually don't have time." I glanced over at her to see the look of disgust on her face.

"Damn. I'd be in trouble if I skipped lunch." She glanced at me again. "But, I guess it does explain a lot in your case."


"Well, look at you; you're a stick." I looked down at myself, then over at her.

"Hardly." She just smirked and looked out the window.

I pulled up to the curb in front of the Thomlin house, and we both got out. The rain had slowed, and was now just a drizzle, but it made for a cold night.

"I can't believe you're not cold." I muttered to Cody as we made our way to the front door.

"Do you think if I was I'd admit it to you?" She grinned, taking hold of the doorknob to the house, and pushed, only to smack right into it. With narrowed brows, she looked at the door as if just the heat of her glare would unlock it. "Fuck," she grumbled, digging into her pockets. I watched, amused. Finally she found her keys, then the search for the right one began, but no need. The door was pulled open, and Jodi stood there, a smile frozen on her face when she saw Cody. She looked from her to me, then back to Cody.

"What are you doing?" she asked her sister.

"What does it look like I was trying to do? Why the hell did you fucking lock me out?"

"I didn't, jeez." She turned away from her twin, and smiled at me. "Brooklyn. Um, did you bring Cody here?" I nodded at her confusion.

"Sure did. She had a bit of an...," Cody glared at me over her shoulder. "Well, I saw her on the side of the road and picked her up." I finished.

"Oh." She gave me what I thought was a forced smile, but wasn't sure. Confused, I followed the girls inside the house.

* * *

She adjusted her hand in mine as we walked around my neighborhood. The month was dwindling, and April would soon be upon us. Today was beautiful, brisk, but sunny. Rand had left a message on my cell that she wanted to go walking today, and when I got home from work, she sat on the trunk of her car.

"So, have you guys made up yet?" I asked as we took a left on Valkyrie Avenue.

"No," she sighed, beginning to swing our joined arms.

"Why not?"

"Cause I still think he's an asshole." Her brows knit together as she thought about it, her dark eyes squinting against the falling sun. Her hand ran through her hair, freshly cut, short, and dyed her normal black. But, with her skin tone, it actually looked good on her; she didn't look like one of those wannabe vampire types. Her black stretch shirt clung to her petite body, along with the matching pants.

"Okay, now, explain to me again what happened?" I asked as we headed toward the park that was a block away from my house, though we, of course, had gone the long way to get there.

"I don't want to talk about it, Brooklyn."

"Oh, come on, Rand. You cannot leave a message on my cell like you did and then say you don't want to talk about it." I gently pushed her. She regained her pace walking in step with me, and grinned.

"Okay, okay." She took a deep breath. Here I am, waiting for her to tell me something awful, like he had cheated on her. I held my breath and waited. "He," she swallowed. "He made reservations for us to go away for our anniversary next weekend, and he had the nerve to ask Waldorf for the time off for me." She looked at me, her dark eyes on fire. "Can you believe that?"

I stopped us, and looked at her. "And?"

"And?! What do you mean, and? He had the balls to go behind my back and talk to my boss!"

"Are you kidding me?" I was speechless. "This is why you're pissed off at that wonderful guy you've got?"

"Wonderful? He went behind my back!" She pounded herself in the chest.

"Yes, I know, but baby cakes, think about why he did it. He loves you. I would do anything for Keith to do something so sweet and spontaneous like that. You should count yourself lucky, chick." I continued our walk. "Where's he taking you? And did your boss give you the time off?"

"Yes, and he's taking me somewhere in Washington state. He won't tell me where." I shook my head, suddenly almost angry at my friend.

"I really can't believe you got mad at him for that, Rand."

"Gee, tell me how you really feel," she said dryly.

"Well, come on. We always said we'd tell each other when we thought the other was being wrong, and honey, quite frankly, you're being a hag right now." Rand looked at me, her thumb caressing the back of my hand as we walked.

"You really think so?" I nodded.

"Absolutely. He was trying to do something nice for you by surprising you. How did you find out about it anyway, if it was to be a surprise?" I found us a bench, and we both sat.


"Now, that's who you should be pissed at."

Rand was quite for a moment, taking my hand into her lap, continuing to rub my skin. She stared off into the sunset, chewing on her bottom lip as she thought. I also stared into the sun, thinking about my own thoughts. Keith came into mind, and I my thoughts wrapped around him. Sometimes I did wish we had some, hell I don't know, I guess passion, maybe? He was my best friend next to Rand by far, and I was happy with him, and we did have lots of fun. But, still. I would watch Rand and Peter, and something in me would be struck. There just always seemed to be a flirtatious playfulness between them all the time; it was palpable.

"Maybe you're right," she said finally. "God, I'm really a bitch."

"Well, I wouldn't quite take it that far, but how about a hag?" She punched me. "Ow!"

"Call me a hag. Shit. I should call him."

"I've got my cell on me." She turned to me with hopeful eyes.

"Really?" I reached to my hip, and unclipped it from my waistband. She eagerly took it, and quickly dialed. "Sweetie? Hi, baby, it's the bitch. Yeah, I know. I'm sorry, too."

I got up, wanting them to have some time alone, and also not in the mood to get a cavity from listening to them, either.

Once again my mind turned back to Keith. I knew that he and I weren't going to be an item forever, just something I felt in my bones, and that didn't really bother me much. I often thought about where I was headed, and who I'd head down that path with, but then again, I figured that wouldn't be a problem. I wasn't one of these people who had grand ideas of having a family of my own with a husband, 2.3 kids and a dog named Rufus running around within the white-picket fence. None of that really mattered to me. I had my house, my job that I loved, and wonderful friends. In truth, there really wasn't much more that I needed.

"Ugh!" I nearly fell to the ground as I was attacked from behind. I caught my balance again, and reached back to grab the underside of Rand's knees as she made a nice home on my back.

"He forgave me," she said into my ear, and I smiled, bouncing her up and down on my back as I turned in circles.

"Ahhh, stop, you wench!" she yelled as I giggled.

* * *

I rode my bike down the path, headed into the park on my usual route. More and more kids and families were moving in as the weather continued to improve, though we still had some nice, cold, cloudy days, which I loved. There was nothing better to do on those days than to pull on my most comfy pair of sweats, and either read or work on my latest piece.

I saw the skate park just up ahead, and saw the usual crowd there. As I got closer, I saw the gate open, and someone walk out. I stopped my bike when I realized it was Cody. Apparently she had gotten her skateboard and body fixed.

"Hey." I smiled as I pulled to a stop. She nodded at me.


"So, you healed?" I asked, pointing at her leg. She looked down, her knee-length cargo shorts showing off the nice scab that was left behind.

"For the most part, yeah." She looked back at me. "So, another ride for you, huh?"

"I come through here every day, Cody." She shrugged.

"I know." She grinned, her eyes hidden behind her mirrored Oakleys. "Gotta go. Later."

"Bye." I watched as she tossed the board to the ground, hopped on it, and took off.

* * *

I chewed on the inside of my cheek as I read over the copy, trying to figure out what idiot had put it together. There were mistakes coming at me from every direction. I may have to talk to Rhonda about this; it was the third one like this I'd gotten this week, and it was only Wednesday.

"Brooklyn," I jumped, my pen flying out of my hand as I looked up. Cody was grinning at me from over the top of my cubical. With a sigh, I reached down and grabbed my pen off the floor, and turned to her.

"If you don't want a huge red mark written on your large intestine, you'll never do that again." She grinned, and held up a white bag of take-out food. I looked at the bag, my mouth beginning to water. "Did you bring that for me?" I asked, beginning to stand.

"No. It's for my mom." I immediately plopped back down in my chair. She gave me an evil smile, and held up another bag that sat in one of those handy, dandy drink carriers, a large yellow cup tucked neatly inside one of the holes. "This one's for you." She set it down on my desk. "I hope you're a Wendy's fan."

"Oh, Cody. I'm an anything fan right now." I stood, and took the bag, looking inside, the yummy smells wafting up to tickly my nose. "You are a doll." She looked away, embarrassed. "What's the occasion?" I grabbed a fry, and quickly popped it into my mouth.

"Well, I figured I'd start paying you back today. So, now I owe you $95.64." I chuckled.

"You don't owe me anything, Cody."

"Yeah, well, I'm going to drop this off with my mom."

"Come back when you're done," I requested, hopeful.

"Um, okay." She looked at me strangely, then headed out.

I quickly dug in, munching happily on my cheeseburger, holding the sandwich with one hand, and fries in the other, alternating to sip from my Coke. I had nearly finished my lunch when Cody returned. She stood at the entrance to my little corner of the world, and watched as I happily liberated my fingers of the residue of ketchup and mustard. I stopped, mid-lick and looked up, a sheepish grin on my face.


"Hey," she said, shaking her head. I stood, grabbing my drink.

"Come on. I need a break."

I led her through the halls of our floor, and to the conference room. The room, decorated in bold, sharp black and silver, was intimidating with its size.

"Have a seat," I said, indicating one of the black, leather chairs. She did, and so did I. She looked around, obviously not feeling exactly comfortable. "So, I talked with Keith the other day." She looked at me, a smirk on her face.

"What did I do this time?"

"A lot, from what I gather." She ran a hand through her hair, making it even more messy than usual. Her hair matched her - carefree. "He said you're quite the artist." She glanced at me, then at her fingers which played together on the table. She shrugged.

"I doodle."

"Doodle?" She nodded, still not looking at me. "What kind of art are you into?"

"I don't know. I guess I dig buildings, structure stuff," she said, finally looking at me. She readjusted her sunglasses on top of her head, and leaned back in the chair.

"Would you show me?" She screwed up her face.


"Why not? Come on, Cody. You scared?" I asked, a brow raised in challenge. I had a feeling that with a girl like this, that was the best route. She snorted.

"Yeah, right."

"Stay here." I hurried back to my cubicle and grabbed a pad of paper and a pen, and raced back, half expecting to find an empty room. But, to my surprise and delight, she stayed where I'd left her. I set the paper in front of her. "Doodle." I grinned. She rolled her eyes and took the pencil, flipping between all her fingers.

"What do you want me to draw?"

"Whatever. I just want to see this talent that I keep hearing so much about." She sighed, and leaned in against the table, staring off into space. I watched as finally she moved the paper to where it would be comfortable for her, then took the pencil in her left hand, and began to draw. I watched in amazement, the lines almost seeming to just appear on the page, as if Cody's hand had nothing to do with it. They were incredibly straight considering it was free-hand, and very well placed.

After literally about three minutes, she shoved the pad toward me, and began to bang the pencil against the table. I grabbed the pad, and looked at it, blown away by what I saw. It was a house, large, yet modest. Even the shrubs and trees had been added in front of the two-story structure.

I looked at the girl, my eyes wide with surprise.

"Cody, this is wonderful." For just a moment I thought I had seen a bit of pride shine through those eyes of hers, but it was gone too quickly for me to know if it had been there at all. "Where is this?" I pointed at the house. She tapped her head.

"I've had this idea in my head for as long as I can remember."

"What, is it like your dream house, or something?" She shrugged.

"Sure, why not." She grabbed the pad back, and tore the page off, crumpling it up in her hands, and tossing it over the table to the trash can that sat by the door on the other side of the room. "It's a crappy drawing, so it doesn't matter." I looked at her for a moment, feeling sad for a moment.

"I think it's wonderful."

"Yeah, well you fuddy duddy's don't have any taste, anyway." I put my hand on my hip, mouth open.

"Fuddy duddy? Alright, junior, me and some of my friends from the geriatrics ward are getting together tonight for some bingo and bridge and whatever else old people do, so why don't you join us? I'll show you old." She just stared at me like I was nuts. "We'll meet at seven at Tristan's. Know where that is?" She nodded.

"Yeah. Maybe I'll be there."

"Well," I pushed away from the table. "I have to get back to work, and I'm sure you have to get back to, well, whatever it is you do." She grinned, and also stood, pushing the chair back under the table.

"See you," she said, bringing her sunglasses down over her eyes, and heading out. I watched her go, confused about this girl. What went on inside that head of hers? It was obvious she was intelligent. My eyes went to the trashcan, and I walked over to it, grabbing the crumpled pictured, and carefully straightening it out.

As I made my way back to my cubicle, I was nearly run over. I stopped short, and so did,

"Jodi?" She smiled at me, her hand to her chest.

"You scared me, Brooklyn."

"Well, I certainly didn't wake up today thinking that today was the day that I'd scare the crap out of Rhonda's daughters." I grinned, making my way back to my desk. She followed.


"Yeah. Didn't you see Cody on your way out?" She stopped, her eyes quickly looking down for a moment before she looked away, then finally at me.

"No. Uh, I hadn't realized she had been here." I wondered for a minute what that was all about, but didn't give it much thought.

"Yup, sure was. She came by to bring your mom lunch." For some reason I didn't feel I should tell her about her bringing me lunch, too.

"Oh," Jodi looked at the Starbucks cup in her hand. "Well, I hope she won't be too full for this."

"Oh, I seriously doubt it. Your mom lives on that stuff. I'm sure she'll be thrilled."

"I hope so. Well, I had just wanted to say hi." She gave me a warm smile, and headed off toward her mom's office.

* * *

Kristine and Rand were already standing outside of the restaurant when I got there.

"Oh, baby love, I love this." I ran my hand across the back of Rand's black leather trench, which covered the black turtleneck she wore, which of course was tucked into black jeans.

"Thanks, sweet pea; it's new."

"I thought you didn't like long coats?" I narrowed my eyes as I sized the coat up to see how well it would fit me once she got tired of it.

"Usually I don't, but this is an exception."

"Damn. I was hoping I'd see it hanging in my closet in a few months." She laughed, and slapped me lightly on the butt.

"Dream on, cupcake."

"So, are we ready to go in? I'm freezing my tits off," Kristine said, burying her hands into the deep pockets of her pea coat.

"Well," I looked around, wondering if she'd show or not. "I guess." Glancing at my watch, I saw that it was three after seven. Off in the distance I thought I heard something, and when I turned in the direction of the parking lot on the west side of the building, I smiled. Cody, dressed in dark clothing, was coming up on her skateboard. She hopped up onto the curb, feet still flat on the deck of the board, and then pushed herself with her foot, her hands in her pockets, eyes on me.

"Who's that?" Rand asked.

"Cody Thomlin."

"Why's she here?" I turned to my friend.

"I invited her."

"What? Why?" I narrowed my eyes.

"Rand, be nice." She sighed in irritation as the girl came up to us.

"Hey." She said to me, then looked at the other two. "Gosh, no walkers." She smirked.

"You think you're funny, don't you?" She shrugged, looking uncharacteristically shy. "Cody, this is my best friend, Rand." Cody nodded acknowledgement at her. Rand only stared. "And this is Kristine. She works with me and your mom." Again the nod.

"I've heard a lot about you." Kristine grinned, extending her hand out to her.

"I'm sure you have." Cody grinned as well before taking her hand.

"Now that pleasantries are over, can we go in?" Rand asked impatiently. I turned to her, shocked by her reaction to this kid.

We made our way into the trendy restaurant, which we visited at least twice a week, and were seated fairly quickly at booth. Cody and I sat across from Rand and Kristine, Rand across from me. She kicked me under the table.

"Ow," I glared at her, she grabbed her menu and begin to read the selections. I turned to Cody, wondering just how good of an idea this was as she also perused the menu, her hair tucked behind her ear. She was sitting as close to the wall as she could, and looked very uncomfortable. Kristine's gaze met mine, and she nodded her head toward Rand, then at Cody. I shrugged, having no idea what Rand's problem was. Our waitress came for drink orders. Kristine ordered her usual wine, and then the waitress turned to Cody.

"I'll have tomato juice, please." She said.

"Would that be your version of a virgin Bloody Mary?" Rand asked. The girl turned to her.

"Well, I don't know. Why don't you give me the virtues of being a virgin."

I looked from one to the other stunned, my eyes landing on Rand. "I'll have a margarita," I said, my eyes still burning into Rand's.

"Coors," she ordered, tearing her gaze from mine.

"So, Cody, I hear you're working for Keith?" Kristine said, starting to munch on the chips and salsa that the waitress had left. Cody nodded.


"Do you like it?"

"Very much. Keith's a great guy to work for." I felt terrible as I glanced over at her, seeing that she sat with her hands in her lap, arms flat to her sides. I bet she wanted to jump over the back of our booth, and ditch this place. Frankly, I didn't blame her. I turned to her.

"So, Cody. What do you think of our old lady place?" I indicated the restaurant, filled with twenty- and thirty-somethings. She shrugged, and grinned.

"I should take you to a real young place."

"Oh, really? And what would that be?" I challenged.

"A place on Fourth called Spunkies."

"I've been there!" Kristine said, her voice excited. Cody turned to her, surprise in her eyes. My co-worker ran a hand through her brown hair, pushing the stands out of her eyes.

"You're kidding me," Cody drawled.

"Nope. We have a blast there."

"Hello, earth to Kristine and Cody, what is Spunkies?"

"It's a place filled with people like her," Rand chimed in, nodding toward Cody.

"Hey!" Kristine said, smacking Rand. "Be nice. It's a lot of fun."

"Have you ever been there?" Cody asked, slowly dipping her chip into the thick salsa.

"No," Rand conceded, happy for the distraction as our waitress arrived with our drinks. I looked at Rand, absolutely appalled at the way she was acting.

"Rand, can I see you for a second?" I nodded my head toward the bathrooms. As we left the table, I could hear Kristine starting up a conversation with Cody about Spunkies again.

I walked toward the bathroom, my friend at my heels. I was so pissed and utterly disappointed. As soon as we entered, and I made sure no one else was in the stalls, and then turned on her like a raging bull.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" I demanded. Rand crossed her arms over her chest, and looked me in the eye. "Why are you being such a bitch to her?"

"She's a child, Brooklyn," she said, shifting her weight to her left leg, looking at me defiantly.

"Rand, how old are you? My god, yes she's younger than we are, but so what. I happen to think she's a nice kid. And no matter how old she is, she doesn't deserve to be treated like this from you."

"Well, from everything you've told me about her, and what Rhonda has said, and the shit she's done,"

"Stop it, Rand. You're so full of shit. After all the shit you did at her age? I don't even want to hear about it. What's the real problem here?" She shrugged.

"Just don't really like her. Just a feeling I get."

I stared at her, knowing that I wasn't about to get anything else from her. I sighed, and ran a hand through my hair, turning to the mirror to see, to my surprise, that my eyes were on fire. Whenever I got truly pissed or upset, my eyes almost glowed green. They were lit up now.

"Whatever, Rand." I turned toward the door. "Grow up."

We made our way back to the table, and I sat down, glad to see my margarita waiting for me.

"So Cody and I were saying that we should all take a trip to Spunkies sometimes." I looked at Kristine and smiled.

"Yeah, that would be funny." She looked at me, again nodding with her head trying to figure out what was going on. Yet again, all I had for her was a shrug. "But, neither of you has told me yet what the hell this place is, anyway." I looked from one to the other. Cody looked at me.

"It's a bar of sorts. Kind of dingy, my kind of crowd."

"What's your kind of crowd?" Rand asked. All eyes went to her. I think both Kristine and I were curious each time either of them spoke, especially to each other. Cody looked her in the eye.

"Anything goes," she said flippantly.



"So, do you date?" Cody shrugged. "Okay, if you do, is it little boys or little girls?"

"Rand," I muttered, looking at her. She avoided my eyes. Cody met her head-on.

"I've been hit on by both, and as I said, anything goes. But you know what I find particularly interesting?" Rand just stared at her, as did I. "Most of the 'little girls' who hit on me are your age."

Kristine chuckled.

"Oh, and the cock fight is on," she mumbled.

Rand managed to keep her mouth shut for most of the rest of the dinner, only adding comments occasionally. I realized that I didn't have to do much; Cody was able to hold her own, and actually she and Kristine and I had a great time. She opened up a little more, and with the help of Kristine who could open up the tightest of cans, conversation flowed and I began to learn more about Cody.

"Me and my sister are pretty close," she said, taking a bite of her steak. "She's a little too much of a goodie two shoes for me, but other than that, she's cool."

"Do you guys share all kinds of secrets?" Kristine asked. She only had one brother, and he was an ass, so they weren't close and never had been. Cody shrugged, taking a drink of her second glass of tomato juice.

"Sort of. I mean, I've told her most of the shit I've done." She grinned. "But I think she doesn't tell anyone cause she likes to live vicariously through me." Kristine and I both laughed at that, and I even caught Rand smiling down at her enchilada. "My mom thinks she's a fucking saint."

"Isn't she?" I asked, drinking from my third margarita. Cody looked at me.

"Pretty much."

"God, how boring." Rand said, surprising us all. I smiled at her, rubbing her calf with my foot. She glanced briefly at me, then looked at Kristine. "My brother dated someone like that once. Real pain in the ass. I didn't even feel comfortable cursing around the twat."

Cody laughed. "Dude, I hear you."

I wasn't optimistic or foolish enough to think that Cody and Rand would ever be friends, but I felt slightly better by time we decided to leave. We all paid our bill, and Cody grabbed her skateboard from behind the hostess' podium.

"Cody, I was serious about the Spunkies thing." Kristine said as we all stood outside of Tristan's.

"Tell me when," Cody said with a nonchalant shrug. My co-worker smiled at her, and touched her shoulder.

"It was great meeting you, and I'll never believe a thing your mom says again." She busted out laughing, and smacked the girl good-naturedly on the arm. Cody grinned.

"Maybe you should."

"I'll see you around. I have to go before my boyfriend has a cow for me being so late." She hugged me. "See you later, lady."

"Bye, Kristine." She left us, and we both turned to Rand.

"Well, it's been interesting," she said, turning to Cody. "Bye." She turned to me and gave me a hug. "Bye, love bug. I'll call you." Without a second glance, she walked away.

"So, what exactly is the brand of mop that's up her ass?" Cody asked, watching her go as she threw her board to the cement and hopped on. I turned to look at her, my eyes narrowed.

"Now don't you start, too." I waggled a finger at her. She grinned, looking down. "Want a ride home?" Cody looked up into the sky, her breath visible in the cold air.


We headed over to my car, and I let us in, belting myself behind the wheel. Cody put her board in the backseat, then belted herself in next to me. I drove on, both of us quiet for a little while until finally we reached her house. I put the car in park, and turned to her.

"Well, I hope you had at least a halfway decent time." She shrugged, nodded.

"Yeah, It was okay. That other chick's kind of cool."

"Your sister came in today right after you left," I said, she grinned.

"Yeah, I saw her and ducked down the street. I wasn't surprised at all."

"What, to see her there?" She nodded, and looked at me, a smirk still on her lips.

"She's got it bad, you know." My brows drew.

"Got it bad?"

"For you, hello?" I looked at her in shock when realization dawned.

"What? For me? What do you mean?"

"Jodi's what your best friend latently is."

"Cody!" She chuckled.

"Just messin'. But she is. Jodi, anyway."

"A lesbian?"

"Is there any other kind of carpet muncher?"

"Cody!" She just laughed at me again.

"Dude, it's true." She looked at me, her smile gone. "Really. She's got the hots for you."

"I had no idea your sister was ... gay." I looked at my hands on the steering wheel.

"What, does that bother you?"

"Oh, no. Are you kidding?" I turned back to her. "I mean, according to you, I'm dating the biggest queen this side of the Mississippi." I grinned, so did she. "How do you know she likes me?"

"Duh, she told me. Besides," she glanced out the window. "It's totally obvious. She's not real good at hiding it, yet." She turned back to me. "So watch out."


"Cause her feelings are pretty fragile. If you hurt her, I'll have to kick your ass. Got me?" I smiled, absolutely charmed by her protectiveness of her twin.

"Don't worry, Cody. I have no intention of hurting your sister." She was so serous, I just wanted to hug her as her eyes still bored into mine. "Really. Don't worry."

"Sorry." She relaxed. "You're just kind of her first real crush, you know? She's done chicks before, but you know,"

"Yeah. I got it."

"Cool." She reached for the handle on the door, and pushed it open. With one last glanced at me over her shoulder, she grinned, and was gone.

I stared out at the street for a moment. Hot damn. Slap me and call me red.


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