Eventually, somewhere in the labyrinthine parking-lot, Kevin regained his senses. The reason why was simple: he was hungry. Neither of them had eaten since lunch, and it was now approaching 11 o'clock at night.
"Let's eat somewhere" he said casually.
Which rather surprised Dani. She'd assumed that Kevin would just want to go the hell home and get this experience over with - he certainly wouldn't want to take her out to eat. Because that would be like... a date. Wouldn't it? But she was hungry too...
"Uhm... okay. Some Wendy's would be good about now."
"Saints don't eat at Wendy's. You have a lot to learn about being rich, Dani."
You have a lot to learn, period she thought. "Okay, so where do Saints eat then?"
He looked around at the retail-hell of restaurants surrounding the parking-lot, "Uhm... Saints eat at... The Olive Garden. I need pizza."
"I take it Pizza-Hut is beneath us."
"Quite. Yes. Good show! Jolly good show!" Kevin said, doing his best British Aristocracy accent.
"Are you high or something?" Dani asked. Kevin was acting... silly. Kevin? Silly?
"No. Why? Do I seem weird?"
"Race ya!" he said, and took off in a run.
"Kevin!" she shouted after him, "Kev! – I can't run in these heels... KEVIN!"
They talked about their parents. Dani's father was somewhere in the Caspian Sea, looking for oil. He wouldn't be home for months. Kevin's mother, on the other hand, had eventually just started staying at her apartment in New York City – too busy with her career to come home anymore.
They talked about their pasts. The things they used to do when they were kids – each of them fascinated by how different their childhoods had been, Kevin from the top 3-percent income class, Dani from the middle. They had grown up in different worlds, it seemed.
There were some similarities. To Kevin's surprise, Dani knew what burnt ants smelled like. She also knew how to field-dress a squirrel – but Kevin stopped her from going into detail about that. Not over pepperoni. She'd been something of a tom-boy, apparently.
The waiter came by and asked if they would like separate checks, and Kevin nodded his head and waved him off. It was part of his upbringing. The same upbringing that had him opening doors for Dani at the mall, and opening her car-door before his own. He wasn't even thinking about it.
She was absolutely fascinating! He looked over at Dani across the table. She was smiling. That smile again, like he'd seen at the party. He wanted to know more about her. Wait... Him. He wanted to know more about him.
"So, uh, Dani... did you like boys even back then? You don't have to answer. You know how I like to ask dumb questions about that stuff."
"It's okay. Well, y'know... at that age, I wasn't really thinking about it. I mean, all my friends back then were boys, but I wasn't exactly thinking about sex yet, y'know? Uhm... if you're looking for clues, though" Dani said a little uneasily – this was exactly the sort of thing Kevin was likely to laugh at, "I did play with dolls..."
He didn't laugh – he only smiled at her and said, "Yeah. So did I. My friend's sister's."
"YOU played with dolls?"
"Don't get all excited," he chuckled, "I liked to blow 'em up with fire-crackers."
"Ah. Of course you did. I should have known."
"This one time... I think it was a Ken doll. I made this belt of fire-crackers, like a suicide-bomber or something, right? Took hours to make – I guess I was really into it. Anyway, I sorta wound it all around him, around his neck, everywhere. I was gonna blow the fuck outta Ken, y'see. Well... y'know how some firecrackers have faster fuses than others?"
"I never got to play with fire-crackers. You were lucky."
"Oh. Well, most of 'em go 'sssssssssssss-bang!' when ya light 'em. But every once in a while, you get one that just goes 'ss-BANG!'. Anyway, I'm all ready to light it off, right? I'm sitting cross-legged on the patio, and this doll is like, this far away" Kevin pointed to a spot on the table about a foot away, "I wanted to be close, y'see. I worked hard on this! I wanted to see him blow up!"
"Oh my god..." Dani grinned, imagining what was about to happen.
"Yeah. So I light the fuse on the end of the belt I made. I swear to god, I didn't even have time to pull my hand back before the first one went off. Blew Ken's head right smack into my face. Scared the fuck outta me."
Dani started laughing, trying to cover her mouth to keep the noise down.
"And the other ones start going off too... Well, I was a pretty stupid kid – guess I don't have to say that – I made the belt by twisting the fuses together, right? Well, once the fuse burns – it's not there anymore! So the first couple that popped sorta blew all the rest of the fire-crackers all over the place. Including onto me."
"Oh MY GAWWWD!" The hand wasn't doing much to stifle Dani's laughter now.
"Yeah, and I'm cross-legged on my ass right? So I'm screaming and sort of scooting backwards on my butt like a crab or something – there's fire-crackers going off everywhere – and I swore I felt one land on my head. I had long hair back then. So I'm still screaming right? I think there's a firecracker on my head, right? Well, I'm desperately trying to brush this thing outta my hair with one hand, screaming, and still using the other hand to scoot my ass backwards, and I scoot right over the edge of the pool behind me."
"Oh! ... Oh! ..." Dani was cracking up. That was all she could say.
"So over I go, backwards into the pool. Well, I figured that at least took care of the fire-cracker. So I finally get up to the edge of the pool again, and I'm sort of just trying to catch my breath y'know. I mean, I thought my head was gonna get blown off or something! And Mom's sitting in her lounge chair, drink in one hand and cell-phone in the other. She looks down at me, and pulls down her sunglasses, and says 'I told you to be careful with those...' And I'm like 'What the fuck, Mom! I almost got my HEAD blown off!' I didn't say that... but that's what I was thinking."
Kevin sat back and watched Dani laugh.
It was good.
They kept talking until finally Kevin was parked in the driveway of Dani's house. She waited for him to cut off the engine. But he didn't.
"Aren't you going to come in? Don't you wanna see what I'll look like in all this stuff?"
"Dani... it's getting close to midnight. We both have to get up in about six hours..."
Dani was feeling too good for it to end now. And besides, she really was excited about her new ensemble... dress, shoes, hose, garter-belt – the whole deal. She couldn't wait to accessorize it. It would be so great!
"So we can make it an all-nighter! C'mon, Kev... Everything has been so much fun... can't we make it last a little longer?"
"I'm really tired, Dani..."
He looked over at her seriously, "You can show me tomorrow, okay? I need to go home now..."
So, that was that, then. This was goodbye. Dani sighed. Why was he so intent on ruining everything? Oh... no... wait a minute...
"Kevin... I... I wasn't making a pass or anything."
"No, I wasn't thinking that. I'm just really tired, that's all." he said, "You need help with this stuff?"
She considered. Since Kevin hadn't even turned off his engine, she guessed he'd had enough of her for one day. "Nah. I can get it. Uh... thanks for the outfit and everything, Kev. And dinner. And... everything."
"Well... g'nite, then."
Kevin sat there while Dani fished the boxes and bags from the back-seat. He should have at least helped her do that, he thought. Carried them into the house. Been gentlemanly. And he would've, too, except Dani already had them all in her arms, and was walking – with difficulty since she couldn't see where she was going – towards the door.
I should've got the door for her. I should've... aww, fuck, man. He put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway. As he drove home, as he got ready for bed, and as he lay there in the silence, he kept going over the things he "should have" done. He laid awake for two hours making excuses – and he knew they were excuses - for why he hadn't.
Dani laid awake too, wondering about Kevin. She'd never really expected him to be... so much fun! It was amazing – like they'd just worked so well together. Kevin making the typical male show of being dragged along against his will – although it obviously wasn't that much against his will – but guys aren't supposed to like shopping, so of course he'd had to put on the act. It was charming.
And then at the restaurant, the way they'd talked... Minus the idiot and fag comments that usually peppered their conversation. It was so easy to talk to him. And he was so funny! Although she did kind of wince whenever he'd make fun of himself for being "dumb". He wasn't really dumb. She wished he would stop saying that... Poor Kevin. All he needed was someone to believe in him...
Next day, Kevin showed up at six as usual. Dani's mother was there again, so he chit-chatted with her a little. She always wanted to know how the football team was doing. Kevin could tell that she didn't really care – he'd told her four times now that the season didn't actually start until September - but it was just small-talk anyway. She was obviously busy, with paperwork spread out all over the kitchen table, some of it spilling onto the counters as well. She was some sort of banking executive. Boring...
Finally, Danny and he headed upstairs to the bedroom as usual. Now alone with him, Kevin remembered what an ass he'd been the previous night.
"Hey, Danny? You think it's safe for you to put that stuff on while your Mom's downstairs? I'd really like to see it all together now..."
"No you don't," Danny said, smirking a little, "It's okay, Kev. I know how you guys aren't into clothes and stuff. Like you said, you'll see it on Sunday."
Us guys? Kevin thought. Well, he'd let that go for now. "C'mon Danny... I spent damn near five-hundred dollars yesterday, y'know? I wanna see it. I mean, if it's not a problem..."
Danny's smirk turned into a half-smile, "Kevin... Are you trying to be nice to me?"
Kevin looked away in embarrassment, "Well... I was kind of a jerk last night..."
"You talked me into it!" Danny said, smiling fully now, excitement in his voice, "This'll take awhile. You get started on your homework. I'll just be a few minutes." And he was out the door.
A "few minutes" was probably longer than "not long", Kevin knew. He wondered what he should say when she came back...
Maybe something like, "Wow – you really look great!" No, no... to personal. "That's a beautiful look for..." Better not. The word "beautiful" is good though – she'll like that. "You really look beautiful..." Dammit! I gotta make it about the DRESS, not about HER! "It looks beautiful on you." Hmmm. "It really looks beautiful." Yeah. Yeah, that's good. Good. "It", not "You". Yeah.
Dani was sure taking a long time. Kevin had finished his homework and she was still in her sister's bedroom! How long does it take to put on a dress, for Christ's sake? She's probably putting on make-up, too. I bet she wears ear-rings as well. "It really looks beautiful. On you." Maybe that'd be better...
"Ahem" Dani said from the door. It was show time. Kevin turned around in his chair.
"Ta-daaa" she said, curtsying.
"So, the quarter exams are next week. Do ya think I could come over on Saturday and go over some of that trig stuff? 'Cuz we have that funeral thing on Sunday..."
"Sorry, Kev. My Saturday is kinna... uh... taken."
"Yeah? Whatcha doing?" Kevin asked out of simple curiosity.
"None of my business? Hold on... you don't have a date or something, do ya?"
Danny looked over at him with a pained expression, "Yeah. I do. I have a date..."
"Hey, congratulations! Someone from school? Don't tell me – Sam Hollander?"
"Congratulations"? Danny thought, He's HAPPY I have a date? Even though he thinks it's with a guy? "No" he said curtly, knowing Kevin would keep guessing, and wishing he wouldn't.
"Uh... maybe Wayne Tilton?"
"Linda Flornoy," Danny said with a sigh.
"Linda... you have a date with a girl?"
"That's right Kev. I have a date with a girl."
Danny sighed again, "It's for cover, okay? She asked me. And it wasn't the first time. I couldn't keep making excuses. And I can't tell her the truth, either. This is the worst part about being in the closet... I hate doing this."
"You really don't like girls, huh? I mean, at all?"
"It's not that I don't like them, you putz. Some of my best friends are girls... God, that sounds like a sit-com line. It's just that I'm not interested in... that, y'know? Once they understand that, they're usually really cool about it. Cooler than you guys are, for sure."
"So tell her" Kevin said. Simple. Problem solved. Kevin thought, but Why does he always say YOU guys?
"I don't know her well enough to just tell her. She'll tell her girlfriends, and they'll tell their boyfriends... You don't know what it's like..."
"Nah, Danny. You can tell her. She's cool. Just be sure and say that you want it kept secret, okay?"
"How do you know she's-"
Danny thought about it. Was he willing to trust Kevin's "radar" that far?
"If you're wrong..."
"I'm never wrong, Danny. Seriously. Call it 'radar' or whatever, but I'm never wrong about stuff like this."
"She's going to be mad I didn't tell her before, isn't she?"
"Heh. I doubt it. In fact, she'll probably still want to go out. Girls love gay guys. It's weird. I bet you'll end up talking about all the 'hot boys' at school. Put in a good word for me, will ya?"
It did not escape Danny's attention that Kevin had said "gay guys" and not his usual "fags". Did that mean something? He'd have to keep on the look out for stuff like that. But for now...
"I guess this means I don't need the Old Spice, then."
"Old... oh god, Danny. You weren't..."
"It works, Kev. They never, ever, ask for second dates when I wear Old Spice."
Kevin laughed, "Yeah, I bet they don't. Probably reminds 'em of their Dads. You can skip the Old Spice, Danny. God..."
"Oh, by the way, Kev. What time are you picking me up on Sunday to go to your Uncle's?"
"10 am. Funeral, then his estate."
"Crap" Danny said, "My Mom will be home. That means I gotta sneak out. Okay, here's what you need to do: out in back, on the side of the garage, there's a step-ladder. You're going to have to bring it up here" he pointed to his bedroom window, "Man, it's gonna be a long day..."
"Yeah. You wouldn't know, would you... All you have to do is shower and put on a suit. I have to shower, shave my legs and underarms, wash my hair, dry my hair, style my hair, paint twenty nails, wait for them all to dry, then I can put on my makeup, then I can get dressed... I'm going to have to get up early. Dammit. It's not fair."
"Sorry. Uh... would it help if I said how much I appreciate this?" Kevin said guiltily. He'd had no idea there was so much involved.
"I really appreciate this. But, really, why are you hiding it from your Mom? She'd be cool with it, too."
"Kev... No offense, but shut up. Me an' Mom don't really talk much. That'd be like the last thing she'd want to hear."
"Yeah, I noticed that. Uh... mind if I ask why?"
"We just don't, is all. I dunno when it started... I guess we just sorta drifted apart at some point."
"Danny. You're a teenage boy. She's pretty much a single-mom. She has no idea what to say to you, y'know? She'd like to talk to you, but you'd probably start talking about computers and games and school and shit – she can't really do much except sit there and nod. And she's probably scared to pry you for information because she's heard all these stories from her friends who have teenage children - how awful they are, how they're into drugs and everything, how they hate their Moms. You're turning out so good, as far as she can see. She's scared she'll fuck you up. Parents are like that."
Everything Kevin had rung true in Danny's ears. Really, Kev was kind of amazing... "So... I should just come out to her? 'Mom, I'm gay and I like to wear girl's clothes'?"
"Uh... well, I'd break those two things up a little bit... give her time to get used to the idea that you like boys first. I don't think it'll take long. Then you can bring up the other thing. But yeah, I'm pretty sure she'd be cool with that, too."
"Well... I'll think about it. No offense, Kev... but you really just have no idea what it's like..."
"Oh, I know I don't. I can imagine, though. Yeah. I bet it's hard."
Danny doubted that the other boy could imagine it all that accurately. This was getting a little maudlin – time to change the subject.
"Y'know, Kev... if you want to pull off that I'm your girlfriend... you're going to have to act like a boyfriend to me..."
As a matter of fact, he had thought of that. He wasn't really worried about it, though. It wasn't like he was going to have to make out with her or anything. Just put up an act for his Uncle to see. No sweat.
"Not a problem," he said.
"Okay... well, so long as you know."
"Here we go, Kevin" Dani said, as they unbuckled their seatbelts at the cemetery.
"Yup. Don't worry, you'll do fine."
"I'm not worried about me... You're going to have to hold my hand, you know."
"Oh. Well... I can do that."
Dani sighed, "God help us..."
They got out, Kevin held her hand – it was only awkward for a little while – and they made the rounds of introductions. Kevin behaved mechanically, like the prep-school product he was. Introductions were just something one did. It was a rule. He didn't actually care about any of these people...
Dani was smiling and gracious, and tended – Kevin noticed – to stand right up next to him whenever they stopped to talk to someone. She was good at this. She was a natural.
The wind was blowing briskly, and her hair kept flying up against his face. He didn't mind much, though. He didn't mind at all, actually.
Finally, they all took their places at the graveside while some old woman Kevin didn't know delivered the eulogy.
"He keeps looking at us, Kev" Dani whispered into Kevin's ear, "Your uncle. Here... put your arm around me. He's making me nervous. Nothing's showing down my top, is there?" Sometimes the breast-forms peeked out from under the bra, and with Uncle Keith glancing their way like that, she didn't dare check for herself.
"Uh... nope. Looks good from here. Relax. He probably just thinks your cute. And besides, the wind keeps blowing that slit in your dress open" he said quietly back.
"Now you tell me..." she whispered, and held the dress closed with her free hand.
"Would you calm down? It's okay. Nice garter-belt, by the way. Panties too."
"Oh my god..."
Kevin smiled. Who knew you could have so much fun at a family funeral?
"You must be Kevin... Keith's told me so much about you. None of it true, I'm sure" the gray-haired lady who'd delivered the eulogy said to him.
"Oh, yeah. Heh, he sometimes exaggerates... I'm sorry, I'm really bad with names..." Kevin said, putting on his schooling for show again.
"I suppose I'd be your 'Aunt' Mary. Birdie and I were partners for a long time. Would've been forty years this October."
"Oh, you were Aunt Birdie's partner... okay. This is Dani, my girlfriend."
"Pleased to meet you, Mary" Dani said, taking the woman's hand in both of her's, "I'm so sorry about your loss. It must be really hard after a long time like that."
"Yeah" Kevin said, "So, you and Aunt Birdie ran some kind of business togeth-" Kevin was interrupted by a kick to his shin.
A little too quickly, Dani said, "Oh! Kevin! They have punch! Could you get me a glass, please?" Kevin glanced into Dani's eyes. They said Just shut up and go. He went.
"Sorry about that Mary... he's kind of..."
The woman smiled, "It's okay, dear. I get that all the time. You're a fast one though, aren't you... Maybe you'll be a good influence on him. I hear he's in need of good influencing."
"Heh. Yeah, sometimes. Uh, I'd better go see what he's messing up now. I'm really sorry about your loss, Mary."
"Thank you, dear. Good luck with Kevin."
"What the hell was that for?" Kevin asked, dipping out a second glass of punch. Those shoes hurt on his shins.
"They weren't 'business' partners, Kevin. They were lovers. Lesbians. 'Partner' is just what we homo's call it, because we're not allowed to say 'wife' or 'husband'. Get it?"
"Lesbians?" Kevin had never considered the idea of old, un-attractive lesbians before. Lesbians were a porn-thing, in his mind. Those were the only ones he'd ever seen. "For forty years? God-damn, man... that's... that's just..." Kevin's face had a disgusted look on it.
"Kev? This isn't a good time to go all stupid. Yeah, old people have sex too. Even old gay people. Uhm... sorry, I didn't mean to call you 'stupid' or anything..."
"No. I didn't. Look, let's go over what you're going to say to Uncle Keith, before dinner gets served, okay? Remember – no sports talk. I know it's easy for you, but that's not why you're here, right?"
"Uh, yeah. Right. I talk about my school-work and what I want to major in at college. I want to major in... uh..."
"Business Administration. Gah, we just went over this! And why do you want to learn Business Administration?"
It was going to be a long evening. Thank god I'm here, Dani thought.
Thank god she's here... Kevin thought, too.
After dinner, Dani got up to help clear the table, along with several of the other younger women there. Once that was done, she stayed behind just to scrape off a few more plates and get things a bit more organized. The others meandered off to find their husbands or use one of the many bathrooms.
Uncle Keith came in, puffing on his cigar. He picked up a couple of glasses and began emptying them into the sink.
"We have staff to do this sort of thing you know, dear. Dani, wasn't it?"
"Oh, yeah, 'Dani'. With an 'i'. I figured you did Uncle Keith, but I just thought I'd neaten it up a little for them, y'know."
"Yes. I do know. After an affair like this, I always try to tidy things up – at least a little – before the staff comes in. So, how long have you and my nephew been seeing each other?"
So this was a test, then. Maybe. Dani made a note to herself to go find Kevin before Uncle Keith did, so they could get their stories straight...
"Oh, since a couple of weeks after school started. We – my family, I mean - just moved here, from down south. You can probably tell by my accent... Houston."
"Yes, I had noticed. It's quite charming, actually. I'd keep it, if I were you. Adds to your persona."
"Oh... Well... thank you." Uncle Keith – whatever else he might be – was pretty damned classy.
"Might I ask you a rather personal question, my dear? I hope I don't upset you."
Uh oh Dani thought, ready to panic, Did he see something? Does he know? "Well, I guess you can ask..." she said, fearing the question.
"You seem to be quite a remarkable young woman, Dani. What exactly do you see in Kevin?"
Oh, thank you God... wait... what am I going to say to that? Dani hadn't known she was going to have a private conversation with the dreaded Uncle Keith. She was going to have to ad-lib:
"Well... Kevin... Kevin is..." Dani's mind raced. Uncle Keith already knew what Kevin was. It was going to be up to her to do the lying? This could get real bad, real fast. But maybe... maybe a little truth – said in the best possible way – would satisfy this man's interrogation.
"Kevin is mostly lazy, is all. Really, he's a lot smarter than he thinks he is. And he really does have a heart of gold – it's just buried really deep..."
"I see. Yes, sometimes people are not how they seem. On the other hand, sometimes they are, too. You're whipping him into shape, are you?"
"I do what I can" Dani said, and then she had an idea, "He's really excited about going on to college and getting an MBA..."
Uncle Keith frowned at her, although Dani wasn't looking and didn't see it. With that last remark, he'd learned what he'd wanted to know.
"Yes, well, good for him. I think that's enough tidying up, Dani. Let us return to the other guests, shall we?"
They did, and Dani made a bee-line for Kevin, who was sitting by himself in an over-stuffed Queen Anne chair and appeared to be looking around for her.
She bent down to whisper into his ear, "We need to talk!"
They went out the front door and found a spot on the enormous veranda where they could be alone. Dani told Kevin what had happened, and they got their stories straight, then they went back in. They mingled with the other guests – always together – but kept an eye on Uncle Keith. The man was clever, and in their situation, that was dangerous. For Kevin, anyway.
But Uncle Keith never made a move towards them, and seemed to have forgotten all about his intimate encounter with Dani earlier. As the guests started to leave, Dani and Kevin both breathed sighs of relief. They would have to stay longer, of course – Kevin was an actual relative, after all, not just a "friend of the family".
By early evening, when most of the guests had already left, they had both forgotten all about scary Uncle Keith.
"Kev, I gotta use the restroom."
"Okay. There's a downstairs one in the hallway to the drawing-room."
And no more than ten seconds after she'd left -
"Kevin? May I speak to you privately? In my study, if you please?"
He had been waiting. All this time. Even Kevin could figure that out.
"Very interesting girl, your Dani" Uncle Keith began, closing the sliding doors behind him.
"Yes sir." Kevin felt like a drowning man in the middle of a wide ocean. With no life-preserver. No Dani.
"You bought her that dress? It looks like something you'd approve of..."
"Uh..." Just as Dani had thought, Kevin realized too that a little truth was the best lie – he just hoped he could pull it off, "Yeah. We went to the Mall last week. Got her the whole thing, dress, shoes, purse..." He was volunteering information because at least this part was easy. It would delay the inevitable. He did leave off the part about the underwear, though.
"Yes, she's quite remarkable. Intelligent. Friendly. With a natural politeness and grace."
"Yeah. She's cool."
Uncle Keith now sat behind the desk that Kevin was standing in front of, and got to the point, "You brought her here to impress me, didn't you..."
If Kevin lied, Uncle Keith would see right through it, so there was no use even exploring that avenue. Perhaps he could respond to the question by answering a different question – not the one that had been asked.
"I kind of thought she would impress you, yes, sir. She really is my friend, though." Kevin knew that if he'd said girl friend, it would all be over now.
"You're usually somewhat more... intimate... with your girlfriends when you bring them here, Kevin. I haven't seen you so much as cop a feel of Dani's bottom. How do you explain that?"
"She... she's not that kind of girl..."
"No, she isn't. But you are that kind of boy. Come on, Kevin. Is she doing it just for the dress? Are you paying her outright? Or is it more an exchange of favors... I know a girl like that can't possibly be interested in you..."
Apparently play-time was over. Now it was sink or swim.
"She likes me." It wasn't a lie. Was it?
"WHY, Kevin? Why would a girl like that like you? You're not her type. You're not nearly her type! Come now, nephew. The game's over."
"It's not a game! She likes me – maybe I don't exactly know why... and I like her! Okay?"
"She's my GIRLFRIEND!" Oh, shit.
They both looked over as the doors slid open again, and there stood Dani, "Oh, excuse me. I didn't realize this was... Kev? I need to see you for a second. Would that be okay, Uncle-"
Kevin, who had been standing just inside the door, wrapped his arms around Dani and kissed her. On the mouth.
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