Sunburn, Chapter Four
Ahem....I accidentally didn't post the end of Chapter Three last time, so thats in here, too.
Cody went to bed and took a long nap without meaning to. When he woke up, it was almost four thirty in the afternoon. He went downstairs, and found his dad doing the weirdest thing: cooking.
“Hey. Where’s Georgie?” Cody asked.
“Basement,” his dad replied. “I’m making fish tacos for supper,”
“You are?” Cody asked, fairly amazed. “O-kay than. Um…I’m going downstairs. See you…later,”
Cody walked down the hall to the basement door, and hurried down the carpeted steps.
He found Georgie laying on a couch, her eyes closed, singing along to a Taylor Swift song. An early one with lots of violins, back when Taylor used to sing with a twang.
Georgie yelped, jumping up on the couch. “Gosh! Don’t scare me like that! I was having a Tay Swizzy moment! It’s like a trance!”
Cody twisted his mouth dubiously. “Sorry to interrupt you,”
Georgie reached over and shut off the large stereo system. “Whatever. Where have you been?”
“Napping,” Cody replied. “It just sort of happened,”
“Cool,” Georgie said sarcastically. “Did you hear about supper?”
Cody nodded. “Tacos. Fish ones. Made by the man who couldn’t make toast when last we met.”
Georgie raised her eyebrows. “Well, as long as we don’t get food poisoning, I’ll put on a brave face,”
Peter Ryan was an amazing cook. In his mind.
The fish tacos weren’t toxic, but it was not the most pleasurable meal Cody and Georgie ever sat through. The fish was soggy, lacking in texture, and under-salted to the extent that it tasted like mushy cardboard. Mushy cardboard that’s been drowned in lime juice. The taco shells were a little black around the edges. The tartar sauce had a very aged smell to it. And there’s only so much you can do with rubbery baby carrots. They make very nice Vitamin A rich gum, I guess.
At that point, Cody and Georgie were just thanking the heavens for root beer.
“Huh,” Peter said, choking on his own cooking. “These don’t taste as good as I remember from the last time I had them. I got the recipe from a friend. Maybe I should have put more lime in,”
“Oh, no!” Georgie cried. “Trust me…there’s…uh…plenty of lime pizzazz going on with my taste buds right now! And I mean, what are limes anyway, right? Nauseous lemons!”
Cody put his head down on the table and moaned.
Peter was so far out of his element, he was within inches of running out of oxygen. He looked from Cody to Georgie to his cooking and back around again, like a frantic rabbit trying to escape from a wolf while contemplating grabbing a quick carrot.
“So!” he finally shouted. “What have you two been up to lately?”
“Besides getting arrested?” Cody asked around a mouthful of sour fish paste.
“Yeah. Besides that,” Peter said, blinking.
“Well, not much,” Georgie mumbled, pushing her fish around on her plate. “Its been pretty dull after The Summer,”
“The Summer?” Peter asked, frowning.
They stared at him. “You know, Dad…three years ago? The hot air balloon?”
Peter’s expression went blank. “Um…hot air balloon?”
“You mean you don’t know about that!?” they cried at the same time.
Peter scooted back about three feet, looking like a cornered mouse. “Um…well…Maggie told me something about…something, three years ago. You two were in trouble, right?”
Georgie handed him the bottle of expired tartar sauce. “And the Understatement of the Year Award goes to: Peter Ryan!”
Cody applauded obligingly.
Peter scooted back a little further; taking the tartar sauce like it was an explosive. “So…what exactly happened three years ago?”
“It’s a long story…” Cody said.
When you scare your own father to the point that he sends you to bed as an act of self-preservation, the mixture of amusement and guilt that follows is astounding.
Cody lay in his bed, consumed with shame and mirth. And confusion. Life had turned all crazy on him in a matter of seconds. It seemed every time Georgie entered his life, things tended to tip sideways and backwards and upside-down.
And what was up with Georgie, anyway? Why had she changed so much…and yet not at all? Cody rolled onto his stomach restlessly, trying not to think about Georgie, or his dad, or the fish tacos churning in his usually very tolerant stomach. He’d eaten a whole packaged of undercooked chicken nuggets once (how was he supposed to know there were different cooking times for frozen and defrosted?), and his stomach had flipped over uncertainly once, and that was it. And of course, those were the only things he could think about.
So he picked the least painful, but most annoying one: Georgie.
He figured that was a safe choice.
Man. Georgie was pretty great, wasn’t she? She was funny, smart, cute, and brave. Nothing like the few girls he’d dated in the three years since running away.
Brittany was ok. If you like a girl whose allergic to everything with leaves and thinks it’s fun to hang on your arm twenty-four seven (while sneezing). After that, who cares how gorgeous and blonde the girl happens to be?
Patricia was boring with big lips. The only reason he’d dated her was because she was his mother’s coworker’s friend’s daughter. All she liked to talk about was Johnny Depp and wildlife reserves.
Holly was…well, Holly was Holly. She wore a lot of black and had a lot of piercings, but she had cool opinions. Like she loved ancient literature, and was actually able to explain The Odyssey to him. And everything she stood for, she stood for 100%. But…she could beat him up in New York minute. After insulting her views about pasteurization, she’d thrown him over her shoulder and dumped him while he was still trying to get off his back.
Georgie had dated in that three year period, too. Once.
During the three year ‘grounded from thy best friend’ thing, Georgie made friends with Barret Foster, a new girl in her neighborhood, and became ‘acquaintances’ with a lot of people. Then, she’d come home from 4-H one day and admitted she had a crush on this ‘cute’ (cute like a small bug, not like a desirable human being…at least in Cody’s mind) guy named Keith Ronson.
Mr. O’Kay was enthralled beyond words that Georgie was noticing a male besides Cody Ryan. He’d called poor Keith Ronson up immediately and basically intimidated him into asking Georgie out. Georgie might have turned him down flat, but Mr. O’Kay had threatened to extend her ‘grounded from thy best friend’ time. So, she and Keith Ronson were a couple.
Cody had been horrified that his thirteen year old best friend had been blackmailed into dating a scrawny loser like Keith.
He needn’t have worried. After about a month of awkward, pointless dating, Keith had foolishly decided to make his move.
They’d been sitting (awkwardly, and rather far apart) next to each other on the Ronson’s ugly pinkish brown sofa, and Keith was suddenly wrapping his arm around Georgie, leaning in with his lips puckered.
Georgie laid it on him so hard and fast, he never knew what hit him. She broke his nose, got to her feet, and walked the five miles home.
Mr. O’Kay hadn’t hooked her up with any potential dates since, although he insisted that Georgie apologize to Keith (and scrub the blood stains out of the couch and carpet).
After apologizing, Georgie looked Keith straight in the swollen, gauze-bound nose and said, “You’re lucky I pounded you before Cody found out. I hope you think next time you try to kiss a girl without her permission!”
It had actually ended up pretty great, all things considered.
Cody sighed heavily, and then moaned as his stomach writhed in agony. He should not have eaten the tartar sauce, no matter how flavorless the fish was.
Georgie looked up at the ceiling, wishing there were stars. So she climbed out of bed, went to the window, and looked up at the real stars. She smiled, and starting missing Barret Foster. She hadn’t seen Barret since the fall, when the Fosters went south for the winter. And now Georgie was in Southern Wisconsin, leaving Barret with only an e-mail explaining what had happened. Barret was a lot like Georgie, though, so she would understand. Barret was African-American, could eat an entire Quadruple Cherry Sundae, and loved climbing trees. They met in a sudden downpour in May of the first year Georgie was grounded from Cody, when they both ran outside to run in the rain. Barret had introduced Georgie to Wii Just Dance 2, and Georgie insisted that Barret fly in a hot air balloon. She ended up puking over the side, but it had still been an excellent bonding experience.
As Georgie looked up at the stars, random, big thoughts floated through her mind. The biggest and most random one was, I’m fifteen now!
“I don’t feel fifteen,” Georgie said to the stars. “Well…I do. But I don’t want to. I want to be little and crazy my whole life. Things would be so much easier that way,” She rested her chin in her hands and listened to the wind blow over Lake Superior. “Well,” she said. “At least Cody and I can grow up together,”
She opened the window, and let the win come inside and blow everything around. She smiled, and made herself a promise. We’ll make this summer special. Somehow.
She just didn’t know how special…