“So you’re having nighttime visitors now?” Dad asks me over dinner. Mom’s at a work dinner and it’s just the two of us. Choking on my apple sauce, I cough until half of it is up my nose. Lovely. Dad hands me a napkin impassively not looking at all sorry that I almost choked to death in front of him. Dramatic of me? Yes, a little but I feel like this situation calls for a spectacle to distract his attention. I wipe away the bits of apple sauce and then push away from the table, ignoring his question.
“Greta is coming over soon, can I be excused?”
Dad sighs heavily and then rubs the back of his neck which signals his frustration. That he doesn’t yell at me or start lecturing make me feel guilty and I hop over and wrap my arms around his broad shoulders. “Daddy, it’s just Nate.”
He gives me a return squeeze on both of my arms. “It might be just Nate to you but it’s a seventeen year old boy lying in my daughter’s bed all night long.” He’s more resigned than anything. Mom must have gotten to him but his dismay makes me feel worse than a lecture. “I’m torn between loving the kid and wanting to pound him into the dirt.”
“I don’t think Uncle Noah or Aunt Grace would be happy with getting Nate back in a dustbin,” I joke lamely.
Dad scowls. “Then maybe he should sleep in his own damn bed.”
I say nothing but inwardly I’m clutching my hands together in joy. Dad’s current state of unhappiness suggests that maybe last night wasn’t an anomaly. Could I expect more visits from Nate? “I’m going away soon and I want to spend as much time as I can with the Jacksons.”
He opens his mouth to say something but the intercom rings and it’s the doorman telling us that my friend Greta is on her way upstairs. Dad doesn’t release me right away though. “I’m trusting you, Charlotte, to do the right thing.” He swivels in his chair and gives me a hard look. “I’m relying on both of you to make sure that nothing happens that you wouldn’t be proud of telling your parents about the next day. Can I do that?”
I should tell him yes. I love my daddy but three weeks is a long time and I have plans for Nate. Plans that include things that I don’t want to share with my parents, especially my dad. But I can’t lie to him either so I’m grateful when the buzzer rings again. I give dad a quick kiss and run off to the door to answer Paul, our doorman.
“You didn’t answer me!” I hear Dad bellow behind me. Pressing my lips together, I try to hold back a giggle. He’s all bark when it comes to me. I try not to take too much advantage of this but I figure mom has covered this all with him or Nate wouldn’t still be breathing. At least I hope he’s still breathing. I’ll have to text him tonight. Just to see what’s up.
“Hey Paul,” I say into the intercom.
“Greta’s on her way up,” he responds. “How you feeling?” The how you comes out as one word. Paul sounds and looks like the South Side boxer that he once was. I guess Uncle Noah found him in a gym one day, kind of down on his luck. Uncle Noah cleaned him up and now he’s the doorman at our building. He’s more like security. I mean, no one’s getting passed Paul up to our penthouse floor without the person being totally safe.
“I’m good Paul. Real good. My weight’s up and I haven’t been puking or anything.” Everyone knows about my condition in our building. At least all the staff. This is part of what I’m going to miss but if spending six months in intensive treatment and therapy makes me come home sooner then that’s a worthwhile trade.
“Glad to hear it. We’ll all miss you when your gone.” Paul’s voice is gravelly. I wonder if his larnyx was damaged with a throat punch. I’ve wondered a lot of things about Paul but he’s too scary for me to ask. But I keep talking to him because as long as I’ve got him on the phone, my glowering parental unit won’t interrupt.
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake introductory notes signal Greta’s arrival. “Gotta run, Paul. Greta’s here.” Paul says goodbye. I toss my dad a bone before I open the front door.
“I hear you Daddy.” But I don’t give him even a moment to respond before I pull Greta into the apartment and hustle her down to my bedroom.
“Hulloooo Mr. Randolph,” Greta coos. The blatant appreciation Greta has for my dad usually strikes me wrong but today I’m grateful because Dad’s face turns white and he stalks off to his office. Greta fans herself with a hand. “Your dad is smoking hot. I would so do him.”
“Greta, jeez, my dad, really?”
“Yes, Charlotte. Your dad. And Noah. God, I’d do the whole Jackson family.” She flops onto the bed and stares up at the ceiling lost in a little fantasy that I don’t want shared with me.
“Call dibs on Nate,” I say lightly.
I don’t know what that sound means but Greta’s the one friend from gymnastics that also goes to North Prep with me. Maybe if we didn’t have gymnastics to tie us together we wouldn’t be friends because Greta and I are pretty different even before I got sick.
She’s just interested in other things like going to concerts and using her dad’s connections to go backstage. She’d like NorthPrep to be a reality tv series and is constantly roaming the hallways filming people with her camera phone. It gets her in trouble from time to time. Actually what gets Greta in trouble is that she doesn’t believe in monogamy. Monogamy is for small minded people and since I’ve never had a boyfriend I figure I’ve got no place to judge.
But now that I’ve accepted that I have really strong feelings for Nate, the idea of him with another girl makes me feel like puking.
“What’s with the icky face. You still sick?” Greta asks, sitting up now and leaning back against her hands.
“No,” I sigh. Sitting down in my egg shaped chair across from her, I pull up my legs and confess. “It’s this girl who lives downstairs. Madeline? She’s a college student. I think her and Nate had something going on one time.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because I saw her walk in with him once and she was touching him and it just looked…” I search for the right word.
“Intimate?” Greta suggests. “Where’d so touch him? On the arm? What?”
“The waist. Like she ran her hand down over his shirt.”
“Yeah, they’ve fucked,” Greta confirms. “So your going to have Nate take your v-card, huh? That’s memorable.”
“For him or me?” I ask, still thinking of Madeline’s hand on Nate’s shirt. When I saw it, I wanted to run over and rip her away from him but since I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment with my mom, I mumbled some sort of greeting and left.
“For you. Maybe for him. Depends on how many virgins he’s had. What’s the count do you think?” Greta asks.
“God, I have no idea. I try not to think about that.” I place my hand over my stomach to quell the churning.
“I’d guess a few because he’s had sex with several of the North Prep girls and they can’t all have been having sex before Nate, right? I mean, if I was going to give it up the first time, it’d be with a Jackson for sure.”
“Why?” I ask. I haven’t given it much thought. Not like Greta has.
“Because they are both super hot. They are nice guys, like they open doors for you and will carry shit if you ask them to without complaining. And they’re super kind to you.” Greta enumerates. “It just seems like they aren’t selfish pricks in life so they wouldn’t be selfish pricks in bed. Nathan Jackson is a good choice.”
I haven’t told anyone about my crush on Nate because I thought…well, it would be stupid. I mean, Nick knows because he’s my best friend and I can’t really keep anything from him. But I don’t feel comfortable talking to him about having sex with his brother. I certainly can’t ask him for what I asked Greta to bring me.
“So where’s this going to take place?” Greta looks around. “Not here, right?”
I bite my lip and nod slowly. “Where else?”
“Dunno. Rumor was that you guys were doing it in the training room after or during football practice.”
“What?” I exclaim, sitting forward. “I was sleeping!”
“Yeah, I mean, after the EMTs came we all figured it wasn’t sex, but who knows. Maybe you were doing something kinky and Nate hurt you necessitating medical first aid.” Greta wiggles her eyebrows.
“I have no idea what that could be and I don’t want to know.” I hold up a hand to forestall any further discussion on that point. “Is that really what everyone is saying?”
Greta gives me a half smile. “Who knows? People are gonna talk. Does that really bother you? I mean, having sex with Nate Jackson is nothing to be embarrassed about. If it were me, I’d have fliers made up. Hand them around school.”
This makes me laugh because she so would. “I think when I do have sex with Nate it’ll be apparent on my face. You won’t need a flier.”
Greta guffaws and then hops up. Pulling a bunch of square wrappers out of her purse she lays them on the bed. “Okay, I got these from my sister. She says there are different sizes. You know what size Nate is?”
“I have no idea,” I say slowly as I take in the dizzying array in front of me.
“Never felt him up?” She asks incredulously. “Not even through his jeans?”
I shake my head. Placing her hands on her hips, she asks in amazement. “How do you know he’s even going to agree to this. Have you guys even kissed?”
“Nope.” I can’t explain to Greta the connection I have with Nate and how I’ve felt tethered to him all my life in a way that I’m not linked to anyone else in the world. Not my parents, not Nick. No one. I just know that I want my first intimate physical encounter to be with Nate. The world may end tomorrow. He might end up marrying Madeline. I know he’s been with other girls but there’s some deep seeded belief that Nate will do anything for me, including this one thing that I want so desperately before I leave. He won’t turn me away or make me feel bad. This is a truth that is so solid yet unexplainable to someone else outside of us. Nate and I…we were meant to be together in some way.
He just needed a push and I was going to provide that to him. If not tonight then before the week was out.