Rules of Attraction(4)

By: Simone Elkeles

She opens her arms out wide and pulls me close. “Carlos, it’s so great to have you here!” Brittany says in a cheery voice. I almost forgot she used to be a cheerleader back in high school, but as soon as she opens her mouth I can’t help but remember.

“For who?” I say stiffly.

She pulls back. “For you. And for Alex. He misses having his family around.”

“I bet.”

She clears her throat and looks a little uneasy. “Umm . . . okay, well, I brought you guys some Chinese food for lunch. I hope you’re hungry.”

“We’re Mexican,” I tell her. “Why didn’t you get Mexican food?”

Brittany’s perfectly shaped eyebrows furrow. “That was a joke, right?”

“Not really.”

She turns toward the kitchen. “Alex, want to help me out here?”

Alex appears with paper plates and plastic utensils in his hands. “Carlos, what’s your problem?”

I shrug. “No problem. I was just askin’ your girlfriend why she didn’t get Mexican food. She’s the one who got all defensive.”

“Have some manners and say ‘thank you’ instead of makin’ her feel like crap.”

It’s crystal clear whose side my brother is on. At one time Alex said he joined the Latino Blood to protect our family, so Luis and I didn’t have to join. But I can see now that family means crap to him.

Brittany holds her hands up. “I don’t want you two getting in a fight because of me.” She pushes her purse farther on her shoulder and sighs. “I think I better go and let you two get reacquainted.”

“Don’t go,” Alex says.

Dios mío, I think my brother lost his balls somewhere between here and Mexico. Or maybe Brittany has them zipped inside that fancy purse. “Alex, let her go if she wants.” It’s time to break the leash she’s got him on.

“It’s okay. Really,” she says, then kisses my brother. “Enjoy the lunch. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye, Carlos.”

“Uh-huh.” As soon as she’s gone, I grab the brown bag off the kitchen counter and bring it to the table. I read the labels on each container. Chicken chow mein . . . beef chow fun . . . pu-pu platter. “Pu-pu platter?”

“It’s a bunch of appetizers,” Alex explains.

I’m not goin’ near anything with the word “pu-pu” in it. I’m annoyed that my brother even knows what a pu-pu platter is. I leave that container alone as I scoop myself a plateful of the identifiable Chinese food and start chowing down. “Aren’t you gonna eat?” I ask Alex.

He’s looking at me as if I’m some stranger.

“¿Qué pasa?” I ask.

“Brittany’s not goin’ anywhere, you know.”

“That’s the problem. Can’t you see it?”

“No. What I see is my seventeen-year-old brother actin’ like he’s five. It’s time to grow up, mocoso.”

“So I can be as borin’ as shit like you? No thanks.”

Alex grabs his keys.

“Where you goin’?”

“To apologize to my girlfriend, then head to work. Make yourself at home,” he says, tossing me a key to the apartment. “And stay out of trouble.”

“As long as you’re talkin’ to Brittany,” I say as I bite off the end of an egg roll, “why don’t you ask her for your huevos back.”



“Kiara, I can’t believe he text-dumped you,” my best friend, Tuck, says, reading the three sentences on my cell phone screen as he sits at the desk in my room. “It’s nt wrkg out. Sry. Don’t h8 me.” He tosses the phone back to me. “The least he could have done is spell it out. Don’t h8 me? The guy’s a joke. Of course you’re gonna hate him.”

I lie back on my bed and stare at the ceiling, remembering the first time Michael and I kissed. It was at the outdoor summer concert in Niwot behind the ice cream vendor. “I liked him.”

“Yeah, well I never did. Don’t trust someone you meet in the waiting room at your therapist’s office.”

I flip onto my stomach and sit up on my elbows. “It was speech therapy. And he just drove his brother for sessions.”