Chapter Seven: A License To Bitch

We could all hear Taylor running back and forth upstairs. He was getting ready to go to one of Ellie’s school dances with her. Isaac was up there helping him get ready. He helped Taylor pick out a blue dress shirt to wear with black pants. I told them I thought it was ugly even though I didn’t really. It looked nice. but I just couldn’t act positive. It’s not that I was jealous of Taylor. I wouldn’t want to go to any stupid high school dance and be gawked at by ridiculous little teenies anyway. It’s just that for some reason Taylor and Isaac were annoying me. Besides, tonight Ellie and I were supposed to have a Nintentothon until she cancelled on me to go to the dance.

To me it seemed bizarre that Ellie was coming to our house to meet Taylor who would drive her to the dance. But Ellie said that she would be coming from the mall where she got a new dress at last minute and it would be best if she met him at our house. I think she just wanted to rub it in my face that I am stuck at home by myself playing Nintendo all by my lonesome.

Taylor yelled down the stairs to Mom frantically, “Do you know where I have black socks?!”

“Maybe I do! Maybe I would be more happy to help you find them if you didn’t wait to do everything at last minute Taylor!” Mom yelled up the stairs to him. She walked up the stairs continuing to lecture. “You’re sitting on the computer for 2 hours and I kept reminding you to start getting ready…” Her voice faded off as she entered his bedroom.

I laid back on the couch and tried to think of a fun activity to do for the night so I wouldn’t feel so damn depressed about staying home alone. Mackie climbed onto my legs and tried to blow against my stomach like dad always does to him. He failed miserably and only made me feel more annoyed. I pushed him off onto the floor.

“Zac! You’re so mean sometimes, Zac!”

“Yeah? And you’re so annoying sometimes. We’re even.”

He put his hands on his hips and stood there looking at me with a pout on his face. Then he walked away and resumed building his lego creation on the floor.

Taylor came hurrying down the stairs with his shoes in his hand. He rarely wore shoes that nice- only when Mom made him on Easter. He sat down next to me on the small piece of the couch that I wasn’t taking up. He looked at me for a moment but if he thought I was moving my legs then he was plain old foolish. I was there first and I was certainly not planning on moving for my big-shot older brother.

He pulled his black socks up a bit and slid his black shoes on, quickly tying them up. I could smell his bold cologne from across the couch. Then he just sat and waited. I would have made conversation with him except that I was exhausted. I had spent a couple hours that afternoon playing soccer and I could not collect something to say at the moment- even if it helped make him less nervous. Besides, to see Taylor Hanson nervous is a rare thing. He is usually so sure of himself that I enjoyed seeing him fidget in his seat for once.

Mom hurried down the stairs and came over to Taylor. She handed him his wallet. “I think you’re going to need to license to drive and your money to pay.”

He lifted his butt off the couch and shoved it into his back pocket. “Where’d I leave it?”

“The pocket of your jeans on the floor.”

“Thanks,” He nodded to her, glancing at the clock.

As if on cue, the doorbell rang.

“You want to get it Taylor?” Mom asked him

He stood up, composed himself, and strode over to the foyer confidently. Pulling open the door, she appeared in our house in all her glory. She looked the most beautiful I think I had ever seen her. I wasn’t attracted to her. I just thought she looked beautiful. I think my mom is beautiful but it doesn’t mean I like my mother. Don’t jump to conclusions about my feelings for Ellie.

I could tell Taylor didn’t know if he should hug her hello, kiss her hello, or just greet her normally. He opted for closing the door once she stepped inside and telling her how nice she looked. Taylor can always turn on his charm when he needs to.

“You look very, very nice,” He smiled at her, “Wow.”

Taylor told me once that all girls wanted to be wowed at every once in a while. They want to shock and impress.

Taylor was careful not to look her up and down with Mom standing right there. Or maybe because I was sitting there watching his every move even though I was pretending not to.

“You don’t look bad yourself, you know.” She smiled at him.

He pretended to be modest and shrugged, “I clean up well.”

She finally decided to acknowledge her best friend and turned to me, waving into the living room, “Hey Zac!”

I pretended that I just then had noticed her presence and looked up in surprise, “Oh, hey Ellie.” I was sure she could see right through me though.

Mom jumped up from the chair in the living room and went over to where Ellie and Taylor stood. “You look beautiful, Ellie.” She said, “Oh Taylor, let me get my camera!”

He groaned and whined, “Mom, I hate pictures. We’re fine, really.”

“Let her get the camera. Don’t you want a picture of us?” Ellie interrupted.

They’d been dating for not even two weeks! What was she going to blow the photograph up and paste it onto the ceiling of her room and fall asleep at night staring at it? How stupid.

“Alright, then.” Taylor said, but you could see he was agitated that Ellie bossed him around. I laughed to myself. Get used to it Taylor.

Mom hurried up the stairs and Taylor turned to Ellie, “Hey while she does that I’m going to go find my keys okay? I don’t know where I left them…”

“Alright,” She said. She was just glad to have a date who could drive her- a rarity for the 10th grade.

He ran up the stairs after mom and she walked into the living room to talk to me I presume.

“How do I look?” She said to me.

I bit my lip and debated how nice I should be to this sudden enemy who had ditched me for Taylor. “Depends on what look you’re going for,” I told her.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

I looked her up and down in her tight black halter-top dress that stopped above her knee. It was low cut, but Ellie doesn’t have enough boobs for it to be inappropriate. Still, I had never seen so much of Ellie’s skin exposed in a dress.

“Well, if you’re going for the prostitute on the corner of Main Street look then you look amazing.”

I couldn’t have prepared myself for the look Ellie gave me. She wasn’t angry. Her eyes narrowed a bit but the overall expression on her face was pure hurt. I had genuinely hurt Ellie. I could see her swallow but she didn’t say anything. She didn’t throw her usual caddy comeback at me. My mom and Taylor came barreling down the stairs and she walked over to them.

“Okay, Taylor and Ellie get together.”

He held his keys up to her to show her that he had found them. They stepped close together and put their arms around each other. I watched as they both tried a few different smiles while Mom was turning the camera on. Finally, they settled on toothy expressions and she took the picture.

“One more, one more in case that one didn’t come out well.” She said, taking another.

Taylor turned to Ellie, “Ready to go?”

“Sure, lets do it.” She said.

He opened the front door again for her and turned back to my mother. “We’ll be home about 11 I think.”

“Alright well if you need till midnight that’s fine, if you wanna get food or something afterwards. Ellie you’re welcome to sleep over. I can make you up a bed in Zac’s room.”

I suddenly regretted what I said to Ellie. I wanted her to come home and fall asleep in my room. I wanted her and I to talk for hours about everything before closing our eyes. She glanced at me and looked back at my mom, “No thanks Diana. I think I’d just rather stay at home tonight.”

Taylor and Ellie waved goodbye to my mom and stepped out into the night. I could hear them flirting as they closed the door.

I sit up quickly from my daydreaming. The more I think about Ellie the more I want her back. The more I regret. I have to stop this. I’ve been laying here on the couch for an hour now bored out of my mind. I tried watching the Real World for a bit but the hysterics of the people on the show started to drive me nuts. It’s 10 o clock at night and maybe I ought to just go to bed. Suddenly I hear footsteps on the stairs. They’re very quiet and slow. They’re the exact kind of steps I make when I’m trying to sneak out into the yard at night to lay under the stars in peace. I see Taylor creep over to the front door.

“Where are you going?” I call out to him.

He looks over at me nervously, putting his finger over his mouth to hush me. “Be quiet, will you?” He says, walking over to me. He is dressed in a crisp white La Coste polo shirt and jeans. He’s wearing brand new white and red Pumas.

“Where are you going?”

“Out. None of your business where.”

“Yeah well it’s going to be mom and dad’s business if you don’t tell me where and you know what Taylor?” He stands there with an icy stare. “Don’t tell me you’re 19 and can do whatever you want because you live under this roof. You know Mom and Dad will throw a fit if they knew you were sneaking out. You better tell me where you’re going.”

“I’m going to a party, okay? I’m going to a party where I’ll probably drink a little bit and I’ll be home around 2. Are you happy?”

“No, because I think you’re going to smoke pot, drink, and then drive home.”

“I’m not stupid enough to drink and drive, Zac.”

I glare at him, “I think you might be.”

“Fuck you, Zac. Leave me the hell alone.” He heads for the door.

“What just because you and Anna have a shitty relationship you think to go out and drink all your pain away is a good idea? Like that’s the biggest problem in the world?” Suddenly I’m angry. I’m angry that I can’t work up the courage to go out and enjoy life like Taylor- even if he’s enjoying it in a stupid way. I’m angry that he doesn’t have to deal with the burden of Ellie like I do.

“Like you’ve got the worst baggage! You’ve got nothing for baggage!” I say after him. You didn’t lose Ellie, I did, I want to scream at him.

He turns and walks over to me. He stands over the couch looking down on me. “Fuck you, Zac! Fuck you and your naïve, self pitying crap!”

I feel threatened and stand up, face to face with him.

“MY self-pitying crap!? Look at you! Your girlfriend hates you because you’re a psycho and you seem to think that gives you a license to bitch all the time!”

He shoves me, “You don’t even know Zac! Shut your fucking mouth!”

I shove him back harder, “Cry me a river, build me a bridge!” I shove him harder one last time, “And get the fuck over it!”

He swings at me but I step back quickly enough to avoid it. I probably deserve to be hit but I don’t care. All I can think about is my pain and Taylor’s fun.

Instead of trying to hit me again he backs away staring at me. Suddenly he turns swiftly and heads for the door.

“If you think you’re justified, Zac…” He mumbles and slams the door in my face. I’m surprised Mom and Dad haven’t heard our fight from their bedroom but I can hear their TV is on. I run up the stairs to look for Isaac. He’s right where I expected him to be- sitting in his room on his laptop. He looks at me surprised when I come barging through his door.

“Whoa, Zac. What’s up?”

“Taylor’s an asshole!” I shout as I walk into the room, kicking the bottom of Isaac’s bed.

“Hey! Kick your own bed! Sit down.”

I sit down on his bed, still seething from my confrontation with Taylor.

Isaac sets down his notebook and pencil and looks at me. “Tell me what happened.”

“Taylor’s going out to drink and party!”

Isaac laughs, “Going out to do typical Taylor things. Why is that such a bad thing?”

“Because!” The truth is I don’t know. I don’t know why it made me so mad. I don’t know if I’m jealous that Taylor goes out at night. I don’t know if I’m worried he’ll get hurt. I don’t know if I’m still angry at him for going to that dance with Ellie- three years later.

Isaac smiles and hands me his can of Coke. “Perfectly good reason,” he teases, “Enjoy some coke. You’ll feel better.”

Strange remedy but I sip some anyway. “I dunno dude. It just got nasty down there I guess. Both of us were making shots at each other. Mean ones.”

“Just try to forget it. I’m sure you both didn’t mean it.” What Isaac doesn’t realize is that Zac Hanson is not very good at trying to forget things. I finish off his coke and hand it to him.

“Hey, I didn’t say you could drink it all.”

I lay back on his bed and look at his ceiling. “Do you ever feel pathetic, Ike?”

“All the time.”

“Why do we feel like that?”

“I don’t know Zac. I’m not a shrink.”

“Maybe it’s in our minds. Maybe we’re only pathetic in our minds and the only reason we feel pathetic and depressed is because we keep telling ourselves that we are. Mind over matter right?”

He looks at me curiously. I can tell I have truly sparked a brain wave in Isaac. “Like the reason we feel sad is because we tell ourselves that we’re sad?”

“Yeah. Maybe if we start thinking about how happy we are, how lucky we are to have our family, and how much fun we can have we will actually start to feel happy again.”

He rubs his eyes and shrugs, “That’s too philosophical for this late at night…” He mutters.

“It’s only 10 you loser,” I tell him.

“Oh I’m the loser? Who was down there practically falling asleep on the couch moments ago.”

“Mom.” I tell him, smiling.

“Oh. I didn’t realize how much you resemble mom these days. I confused the two of you,” He rolls his eyes.

I pick up his notebook. “What are you writing about?”

He grabs it from me. “You of all people know privacy is important.”

“Lemme read, Isaac. Please? It’s not like I can ever figure out what your lyrics mean anyway.”

“They’re not lyrics,” He mutters and grudgingly shoves the notebook back into my hands.

I read them over:

Thin Air

I run to you
But you’re not there
I reach for you
But it’s thin air
I can’t picture your face
It’s nowhere in my mind
I would love to go back
I would love to rewind

“Well, why can’t they be? Let’s put them to music.”

“You, Zachary Walker Hanson, want to make music?”

“Who says you can’t make music if you’re not a band?” I want to prove to my brothers that my passion for music didn’t die. It’s still there- my career is just on hold. I don’t want them to think I’m a sell out.

I pick up the acoustic guitar on Isaac’s floor and hand it to him. He gently strums some chords and looks at the poem in my hand.

Together we start putting a melody to the words. Isaac suggests ideas and I modify them to make them better. We try different keys and different riffs. Within 15 minutes we have a beautiful melody. It feels so good to make music again.

“Ike?” I ask him

“What?” He says, carefully tuning the guitar. He’s been tuning it for the last 15 minutes and insists he can’t get it exact. He says something sounds off.

“What is this song about?”

He stops what he’s doing and looks at me. “Someone I never knew.” He says simply.

“How can you write a song about someone you never knew? How do you even know how to describe them?”

Isaac shrugs and lays the guitar down. “You don’t.”

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Chapter Eight