Girl Code(8)

By: L.D. Davis

“I’m going with Sandy and her cousin. It’s not like I’m going as Rico’s date,” I said gently to my brother. “We’re just buddies, Tack. It’s not like I’m going there so I can make out with him in some dark corner.”

“Yeah, but I’ll bet that’s just exactly what he intends to do,” Tack said. “Look, Tabitha, I get it, okay? You’re a freshman, you’ve always been this nerdy bookworm type of girl, and a popular senior asks you to go to a party. Your girly parts are all happy and hormonal and I’m sure you and Leslie did this funky dance-giggle thing after you told her about it, but Rico is not as nice as he’s pretending to be. He is not a good guy, and I don’t want you to find out the hard way.”

I wasn’t stupid. I knew what Tack was talking about, but I didn’t think it applied to me. I spent an hour a day with Rico, five days a week for months. I never got the impression that he was into me like that. We painted, sculpted, sketched, and talked about music, television, football, and our art teacher’s wardrobe. We cracked jokes, shared snacks that one of us smuggled into class, and complimented and critiqued each other’s work. He never did or said anything inappropriate, only touched me to get my attention, and never ever mentioned that he wanted to make out with me in some dark corner.

Tack was wrong. He misunderstood my buddy-buddy relationship with Rico, and he definitely didn’t see that I was not Rico’s type. Rico did not do chubby, ‘nerdy bookworm’ types.

“Do I have to tell Mom?” Tack asked me. He looked reluctant to tattle on me and he probably was. “I’m not going to be here to keep you from going, but if you’re at Emmy’s…”

“No, you don’t have to tell Mom,” I answered quietly and then lied. “I won’t go.”

“That was a beautiful sibling moment,” Leo said from the backseat, clapping slowly.

I rolled my eyes and resisted the urge to throw something at him. On bad weather days, or days when Tack wasn’t busy with other things, he gave Leo, Leslie, and I a ride home from school. Leo still had a special knack for annoying me, though not as frequently as before. But he was monopolizing Leslie’s time, and for that, I was bitter. It was bad enough that I was losing her to her new friends, but Leo was taking her away from me, too.

“You’re destroying her childhood,” Leslie argued from the back. “It’s a rite of passage for a freshman to go to a senior’s party—a senior who isn’t her dorky brother.”

“Stay out of this, Leslie,” Tack growled, glaring at her in the rearview mirror. “Or you can walk home.”

“Too late, Tackleberry,” Leslie said, and she was right. The car slowed to a stop at the edge of her driveway. She leaned forward and put a gentle hand on my shoulder. I looked into her crystal blue, apologetic eyes. “There will be other parties,” she said soothingly.

I knew Leslie well enough to know that she believed that I was going to obey my brother and stay home with a book and Saturday night television. It only made me feel more rebellious.

“Have fun in Jamaica,” I said, forcing a smile for my best friend as she threw open her door.

“Totally.” She beamed. “I’ll bring you back a hot chocolate Jamaican guy. Thanks for the ride, Tackleberry.”

“You’re welcome. Now get out of my car,” Tack demanded.

Leslie leaned in to Leo for a kiss. I turned away before their lips met, but still heard it, a moist, soft sound that somehow hurt my ears. Leslie said her goodbyes to me again before exiting the car and running to her front door.

I thought the conversation was over, but as we continued down the road, Tack continued. “If I were going to be there to watch over you, I’d let you go. I want you to have fun, Tabby, but Rico doesn’t treat girls well.”

“Says the senior slut?” I almost laughed. My brother was kissing a new girl every week.

“I would never make any girl feel uncomfortable—in a bad way,” Tack said hurriedly.

I didn’t understand until later exactly what he had meant by that. “Is there a good way of making a girl feel uncomfortable?” I asked, dubious.

Tack laughed softly. “Someday, some guy is going to make you feel uncomfortable—in a good way. I’ll still want to bash his face in, but you’ll know what I mean then.”

I was reminded of that night on my bed after Leo tutored me, how he had captured me with his eyes and sat so very close to me. I could still feel his whisper on my face close to my mouth as he told me that his heart was beating super-fast, and feel the moist spot on my neck from the candy that had been in his mouth. That was uncomfortable, but I wasn’t sure if it was a good uncomfortable.