After everything that had happened, Dennis released Shark from his grounding early. They did end up ordering pizza. Lolly sniffled into her slice of cheese and pepperoni while her parents screamed at each other all over the house. Shark balled his fists under the table and slurped his soda in disgust.
Thankfully, the family debacle was a private one… for the most part. Max and Marigold were visiting Max’s nephew, his number-one, in New Simoleans. Rachel and Bill were both working late at city hall, and had brought their daughter with them. Rachel had purchased a special baby swing for her office.
The argument between the youngest Racket couple with Silver jumping in her Jag and screeching off out of the driveway, going God knows where, and Dennis stomping up the stairs and slamming the guest bedroom door. He slept there when he was thoroughly disgusted with his wife’s antics, even when she didn’t come home for the night.
After a week of the story about his mom circulating through the high school, Shark finally felt like he was shifting back into oblivion. His humiliation was over, but he had lost all of his friends. Most students were either disgusted by what they heard, and thus repulsed by him, or making lewd jokes at him when he passed by them in the halls. Even Newton seemed to be keeping his distance. Shark tried to act like he didn’t care.
However, since the news about the Castors sex-tape leaked all over campus, Shark’s mom had become a forgotten tale. When one could actually witness Jeffery’s mom and dad getting it on, permanently available on the web, one didn’t need to talk about Silver’s rather mild, though insanely inappropriate choice.
Shark sought solace in his girlfriend. Chase was the only normal thing in his life. She held his hand when they walked through the halls even when others made fun of him or made disturbing comments about his family. She brought him an extra vanilla pudding cup every day, the one thing he looked forward to at lunch, and she remembered the teddy grahams, his favorite. It may be childish but it reminded him of when he was a kid and his grandma used to feed him the pudding cup and teddy grahams as a snack, before she went off-her-rocker.
They met in the evenings at the community pool after Chase was done with her shift at city hall. She had been interning with his aunt Rachel, filing papers and answering phone calls and all. The town elections were two weeks away. After working in the city building without air conditioning, all Chase wanted to do was strip down and cool off in the waters. Shark much preferred the town pool to his own, feeling like he’d rather swim in communal waters than be scarred for life… again… by his no-clothes-loving mom.
Most days, they would meet in the parking lot behind the pool and kiss in greeting. Sometimes they kissed longer than others… and on those days when the hot rains poured, Shark and Chase kissed under the small overhang until their faces were numb. Twinbrook was too cheap to hire a lifeguard so it was swim-at-your-own-risk, but this also meant there were usually no prying eyes for their make out sessions after eight p.m.
It was nearly Halloween and the days were starting to get shorter, but the heat waves still kept rolling mercilessly. Silver was back to working the night shift at the mausoleum. Lolly suggested a sleepover for her and Chase, and her dad agreed. Shark was convinced it was safe to swim in the family pool again, though he scowled the whole time, trying to forget the troubling memories associated with the location.
When his sister went inside to order pizza, Shark took the opportunity to neck with his girlfriend for a moment.
“Oh Shark…” she swooned. “I think I’m falling in love with you…” she whispered softly in his ear.
He leaned in, squeezing her hand, and whispered back, “I am in love with you.”
One large pizza with everything toppings arrived within the hour. The teens gathered in Lolly’s bedroom and munched on their dinner. Lolly brought several cans of soda from the fridge. Chase popped a bag of popcorn in the Racket’s microwave and carried this upstairs. Shark stole some candy from his grandma’s pre-Halloween stash and dropped some fruity gummies into the bag of popcorn.
“Hey!” Chase protested. “Gross! I don’t want to mix those things.”
Shark shoved an extra-large handful of popcorn and candy alike into his mouth and munched to his content. “Yum!” he said, with his mouth full.
Lolly and Chase squealed.
“Hey kids,” Dennis entered the room.
“Dad, we’re not kids,” Lolly protested, and rolled her eyes.
“Aw’right…” he shrugged, happy to see his children were getting along for once. “Can you just turn down the stereo a bit? Your cousin is sleeping and I don’t want to disturb her.”
“Ever the thoughtful one, Dad,” Lolly teased as she stood up to turn down her music.
Dennis left his children to enjoy their evening. When Chase went to the bathroom, Lolly confronted her brother.
“Are you planning on sleeping with my friend?” she inquired.
“Whoa! Lolls… none of your business!” Shark took a step back in protest.
“It is my business,” she said, adamantly. “Chase is my friend and I know things are getting serious. She’s been talking about you.”
“Oh?” Shark replied.
“Yeah… don’t act all surprised, big bro. I just don’t want to see her hurt or anything.”
“Lolly, I’m not going to hurt her. I love her.”
“Whoa! You love her? Well… that’s…” she trailed off and looked at the floor for a moment. “Big…” was all she managed to say. “I’m happy for you.”
“Look, Lolly… I do have plans tonight… and I kinda need your help…”
“You’re doing… it… tonight?”
“Yes… don’t be such a prude!”
“I’m not a prude!”
“Well… I have something special planned for Chase, and this sleepover is the perfect cover… you know in case Dad comes snooping or something. Will you cover for me?”
Lolly seemed to ponder the weight of her brother’s question. After tonight, her friend would no longer be a virgin. Neither would her brother.
“I’m okay… with that…” she said slowly. “But I need you to do me a favor in return.”
“Anything!” he said, feeling himself get excited. “I’ll owe you big time after tonight.”
“Uh…” she started, sheepishly, tucking some hair behind her ear. “Do you think you can get me Sinbad Rotter’s number?”
“Yeah… sure… why?” he frowned.
“He just offered to tutor me in chemistry awhile back and well…” she seemed embarrassed. “I never got his number.”
“Yeah I think I can find his number in dad’s stuff…”
“I didn’t even think to look in dad’s stuff. Do you think he’ll mind you snooping?”
“Well… that’s why you’re… you… and I’m me..”
Shark started to leave the room.
“Hey Shark?” Lolly called after him.
He smiled. “Thanks.”