What Comes Of Breaking Promises And Guitar Strings
Ethan sauntered down the ancient main hallway of Gem City High to the junior locker bay. The smell of the floor wax the custodians used irritated his nose. Glancing up in passing the case full of school trophies and plaques, he caught the eye of a senior girl staring at him in the reflection of the glass and smirked, eyeing her right back. He stood up a little straighter to take advantage of his 6’3” stature, ruffled his dark hair, and kept moving.
“Ethan Fisher.” He registered his name while putting in his locker combination. He turned his head slightly to see a blond ponytail walking towards him. Attached to it was a petite cheerleader with a determined look in her slate-blue eyes.
“Hey Vanessa, what’s up?” He was glad it was her. She was one of the only girls he could really consider his friend.
“I have a little proposition for you.” He raised an eyebrow suggestively. “And don’t give me that look, I’m not hitting on you. Jesus, you’re full of yourself sometimes.”
“Can you blame me?” He knew he had an effect on the female population. She promptly punched him in the arm. Hard. He played it off like it didn’t hurt, but Vanessa was a little intimidating. “Okay okay, I’m sorry! What’s the proposition?”
“I shouldn’t even tell you now, your arrogance is annoying me.” She pressed her lips together in a challenging expression.
“Come on V, you know you love me. Tell me already,” he coaxed. She never could stay mad at him for long.
“Fine, whatever. I have a girl for you. Actually kind of the perfect girl for you.”
“Not again. We’ve talked about this. No set-ups. If I wanted a girlfriend I would have one.”
“Why not? Because you’re already so in love with yourself there’s no room for anyone else? Right. Don’t be an idiot.” Ethan laughed at her seriousness.
“Fine, what girl? Don’t say Kim.”
“No, no one at GCH. She’s my best friend Courtney from Phoenix. She’s coming to stay with me for a month this summer, and I think you guys will hit it off.” Ethan contemplated her proposal. One month? And then she goes home? Maybe this idea has merit.
“I’m listening,” he admitted.
“I’m not selling you a used car, I don’t have like a fact sheet. I’m telling you that I will introduce you and you will like her. She’s smart as hell, and I think she’ll put you in your place. You need to be knocked down a bit if we’re being honest here.”
“Oh, come on. Are you completely immune to my charm?” He gave her his most winning smile and stared convincingly.
“Yes. And you should be glad, because if I were as susceptible to those brown eyes and your flippy hair as every other girl around here, you would be dead. Because Luke would kill you. You’re welcome,” she told him plainly as she tossed her ponytail. Ethan just smiled and shook his head. He knew it wasn’t a lie despite their banter. Luke Miller was a pretty easygoing guy until someone looked at his girlfriend the wrong way.
“All right, so Courtney. When do I meet her?”
“She’ll be here the beginning of July. I’ll throw a party or something, but you’d better be on your best behavior, Fisher. She’s not like the girls who throw themselves at you at your shows. You will be a gentleman, or you will deal with me.”
“Yes, Mom.” She hit him again.
“Good, glad we had this talk.” She smiled sweetly. “I’ll see you at Luke’s later.” She skipped towards the parking lot, chatting with another cheerleader. How does such a tiny girl hit that hard? It defies the laws of physics, he thought, rubbing his arm. He finished grabbing his homework for the weekend and headed out towards his pride and joy. The 1980 Nissan Z was shining like a beacon in the junior lot. Out of habit, he checked it for dings and scratches. He hadn’t spent nearly three years fixing it up for some sophomore to open the door of her Civic into it.
He threw on an old playlist before he backed out and started for home. Admittedly, the idea of hooking up with a hot girl for the summer was sounding appealing, and it stuck in his head all afternoon. No commitment, no “where is this relationship going?” talks. It seemed too good to be true. Well, July will be here soon enough, he thought as he sped through downtown Gem.
There was a cold drink in his hand almost immediately upon walking into Luke Miller’s house for the end-of-the-basketball-season celebration. Ethan didn’t play, but a party was a party, and Miller had a talent for providing the essentials. Namely, girls who didn’t go to their high school.
“So who’s the lucky lady about to get the pants charmed off of her?” a voice inquired from his left. He put on his most innocent expression before turning to see Vanessa.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Whatever. I guess it’s better you get all of your bad habits out of the way now before Courtney gets here.”
“So you’d have me preying on some poor, unsuspecting female just so I’ll be on good behavior when meeting your friend? Isn’t there like a girl code you’re breaking?”
“I don’t think you really get women, Fisher.” She grinned slightly, sipping her fruity beverage.
“Oh, I get plenty of women, don’t-” She turned and walked away mid-sentence, which amused him. After assessing the party situation, his friend Jared caught up with him and was going on about hooking up with someone-or-other, but then, there was nothing new about that. He looked up to find an unfamiliar blond glancing at him from the kitchen, and he gave her his best James Dean expression and brought the bottle of cheap beer to his lips. She held his gaze a moment longer before going back to her conversation, but it was a promising start to the evening.
“You’re not even listening to me, are you?” Jared complained lightly.
“Not even a little bit,” he admitted, shaking his head. Jared tapped his beer bottle on top of Ethan’s, making it overflow onto the tile, grinned, and walked away. Ethan quickly drank the foam making its way to the top, annoyed.
“Happy Fishing,” his friend called out.
“Dick!” Ethan yelled, though he had to admit he probably had it coming. He made his way into the kitchen to wash off his hands, and slid behind the blond on his way there, unnecessarily placing his hand on her back before making it to the sink. She shot off a look of annoyance, but her expression changed when she saw it was him. He turned his back to her purposely, suddenly very intent on the water in the sink. Still able to feel her eyes on his back, a smirk found its way onto to his face. So it begins.
She was kind of chatty in an inane way, but was happy to show him some affection on the couch in Luke’s basement. When Jared showed up to drag him home, they exchanged numbers- hers real, his not so much. He promptly deleted the info on the way out the door. Jared noticed.
“You kill me, man.”
“She was hot.”
“She was cute. But she talks almost as much as you.”
“Just stick to being a teen heartthrob. Your sense of humor sucks,” Jared declared. Ethan laughed and enjoyed the almost-summer air on the ride home.
♫ “Teenage Riot” – Sonic Youth
“How’s It Going to Be” – Third Eye Blind
“Everything to Everyone” – Everclear
“Summertime” – Jesca Hoop
Ethan pulled his royal blue sports car next to the curb in front of Vanessa’s place. He sat for a minute while the song finished, not in any hurry to get inside. Vanessa had been laying it on pretty thick about Courtney every time he’d seen her since school got out. Admittedly, from her pictures she looked cute, but he knew how melodramatic V could be. He was fully prepared to duck out of the party early if things didn’t go well. Automatically, he grabbed the acoustic guitar from his back seat and joined a couple of guys from school upon entering the house.
Confidently, he jogged down the stairs and found Vanessa among the crowd gathered in the basement. He didn’t know what it was about that space, but it was a cool atmosphere. Something about the lanterns hanging from the ceiling gave it the right feel, even if he did have to duck under some of them to prevent hitting his head.
Taking in the party scene, he waited for Vanessa to finish her conversation. He accidentally caught Kim’s eye from across the room, and she waved rather forcefully. He tilted his chin at her in acknowledgement. Please don’t come over here, he thought. He was about to go join a game of pool when Vanessa cleared her throat, gaining his attention. “Hi friend. Did I seriously just see you flirting with Kim? I thought I was pretty clear about being on your best behavior.”
“Stop, you know I wasn’t. So where is this ‘hella smart’ cheerleader? I’m ready to meet my match.” He grinned and raised his eyebrows suggestively, resting his guitar against the back of the white sofa. He watched Vanessa lock eyes with someone behind him and wave her over. He shifted his position so he could see, and briefly assessed the girl approaching. She was incredibly short, he guessed barely five foot, and her dark curly hair flowed halfway down the exposed pale skin of her back. He smiled slightly and let Vanessa introduce them while he noticed how bright her blue eyes were. Ok, so maybe I’m not leaving the party early.
“Ethan Fisher, this is my very best friend Courtney Ross. Court, this is Ethan. He just moved to Gem last year,” Vanessa said, introducing them. Ethan stuck out his hand and marveled at how small hers was in his.
“Hey! I’ve heard a lot about you. Well, you and your abs,” Courtney blurted out quickly after their introduction. The look on her face amused him, as she clearly hadn’t meant to divulge that detail. It became apparent that she’d had a few of the Jell-O shots being passed around, and he couldn’t help but laugh out loud at her embarrassment. At least she speaks the truth.
“Well, glad to know I’m appreciated for something.” He rubbed his stomach and smiled at her. Instinctively, he decided they needed to get away from Vanessa’s watchful eye. “Speaking of my stomach- V, can I stash my guitar somewhere until later? I'm starving. Courtney, you wanna show me where the good food is?”
Her face was returning to its normal color as they strolled out onto the patio to check out the selection. “So, Courtney Ross, are you going to tell me where she keeps the real refreshments around here? Or are we going to dine on Doritos?” He looked at her again, running his thumb along his bottom lip casually. She seemed flustered at the slight flirtation, and her eyes were focused at his mouth. He almost felt sorry for her whenever he decided to actually turn on the charm.
“I, um, yeah. Let's explore the kitchen, shall we?” she replied, slowly regaining her focus, and led him around to the outdoor staircase. He followed her up to the kitchen, admiring her legs in the short skirt. Her thighs were muscular, not twiggish. His mind started to wander, thinking about what they might feel like wrapped around him. Jesus, you need to get laid. He almost ran into her at the top of the stairs while lost in that particular fantasy, but put his hand on her back instead. He resisted the urge just to kiss her then and see what happened. Gentleman, he reminded himself, thinking briefly about the bruise on his arm from when Vanessa had given him that warning.
He watched her climb up on the counter to gather some acceptable sustenance, and listened to her go on about why Vanessa’s parents were out of town. She stood on her tiptoes, her legs muscles tightening, making him want to touch her. She’s just a girl; get it together Fisher.
“So, tell me something,” she said as she hopped up on the counter to reach the high cabinet. “How do you feel about chocolate chip cookies and pizza rolls? That's totally classy, right?” At that point, she wobbled precariously on the counter. He quickly set his hands around her waist and steadied her.
“Ok girly, maybe we let me handle the high shelves, all right?” He helped her down from the counter but let his fingers linger on her waist. It took a substantial effort to step back from being that close to her. “You’re like a hobbit.” He rested his arm on the top of her head casually and reached for the plates she’d been trying to procure. She agreed that balancing on the counter might not have been the best idea in her current state, but he inferred that calling her a hobbit might not have been the most flattering remark.
“Waaaaiiiiit a minute. Did you seriously just refer to me as a hobbit? Like a small hairy-footed creature from the Shire? That's the first tiny fantastical being to come to mind... you couldn't have gone with like a fairy or a pixie or something else that sparkles?!” she demanded, her eyes even brighter now that she was fired up.
He was mildly amused that she felt that strongly about hobbits, and mildly intimidated because she used a lot of very large words, but that intrigued him.
He held his position on the hobbit, but after reading the expression on her face and noticing that her arms were almost as ripped as her thighs, he recanted. “Or maybe I could call you like, bear claw. Because, you know, roar, or girl power, or something. I don't know, now you're glaring at me and it's making me nervous.” He laughed. He was surprised that what he said wasn’t a lie. He was slightly nervous, though he couldn’t pinpoint about what, exactly. He sat on a wooden barstool to eat the gourmet meal of pizza rolls and chocolate chip cookies, glad that she chose to sit on the counter very close to him, and he asked her about Phoenix. It didn’t escape his notice that her gaze followed the hem of his shirt when he leaned back in the chair and stretched. He liked the way her eyes felt on him.