Chapter Ten: Drenched Underwear

I rest my head against the uncomfortable metal of the back of the bleachers and close my eyes. We have been sitting out here for at least an hour now and the score rests at one to one. Even Mom, the one who suggested the entire family come to Avery's soccer game, is bored. She's inspecting her nails and swinging her feet- her wooden sandals clanking against the bleachers each time.

Isaac and Taylor are on either side of me- both equally bored. Taylor is engrossed in some Stephen King novel that looks way too long. Doesn't this man have a life? He spends his entire life writing 800 page novels? And what about his readers? Don't they have lives? If they're all like Taylor Hanson, then my conclusion is: no, they do not.

Jessica and her friend, Carla, sit next to Isaac. Carla, at age 15, has not stopped talking since she sat down. If it weren't so hot and I weren't so thirsty, I would get up from my spot and shove her off the top bleacher. But the Oklahoma heat just sucks all the energy out of all of us. I begin to wonder how Avery can even run around in this heat.

Mackenzie and Zoe are down on the grass tossing a baseball with Dad. They're using Ike, Tay, and my old mitts from years ago. I love the feeling of an old, worn, leather mitt on my hand. I would join them for a bit- but I mentioned the heat. I wipe a bead of sweat from my temple and sigh dramatically.

"Can't they just call it a tie? No one is scoring. No one is doing anything. Let's just end this whole charade now before we die of heat exhaustion," I say out loud to myself. No one is listening. I nudge Taylor. "Will you quit reading?"

He finishes the paragraph he's reading (holding his index finger up to me telling me to hang on a second- something I hate) and then finally looks up at me. "What?"

"I said, will you quit reading?"

"Why? Why does it bother you?"

"Because it's so…scholarly."

"It's Stephen King. There's nothing scholarly about it. Besides, why do you care?"

"I care because I'm bored!"

He stares at me for a second, strands of his golden hair dancing about his head with the gentle wind, and then goes back to his book. No shrug, no comment, no look of empathy. We have hit an all time low!

I turn to Isaac and listen to his conversation with Carla.

"How come you don't have a girlfriend?" She interrogates him.

"How come you ask so many questions?" He responds.

"I've barely asked you any. Besides, I'm just curious…and bored. How come you don't?"

"Because I have not met anyone worth spending 7.50 a week on."

She frowns at him.

"It costs 7.50 to see a movie around here. What else is there to do in Tulsa?"

She tries to come up with an answer but simply moves on to her next question, "Well are you looking?"


"Are you planning on getting married some day?"


"To who?"

"Why would I know who yet? I'm not even dating anyone."

"Well, maybe you like someone."


"Oh." She sits, distraught, and watches the soccer game for a second. Her sister runs along side Avery. "Do you plan to have kids?"


"Why not?"

Isaac raises an eyebrow at her, "Because I don't want children? I wouldn't be a good Dad."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well for one I'm too selfish. I'm too selfish to have children. My life is about Isaac Hanson."

"And your wife."

"Will you stop?" He shakes his head in frustration.

They sit in an annoyed silence until Carla goes back to talking to Jessica- leaving Isaac at peace.

I nudge Isaac now- hoping for better results with him than Taylor. "I'm bored. Why did Mom drag us along here."

Suddenly we both hear cheering and look up. Avery is running down the field dribbling the ball- heading for the goal.

"Yeah Avie!" I yell towards the field.

The whole Hanson clan, including Taylor who has finally looked up from his book unexpectedly to watch the game, is now holding its breath. Avery shoots and misses. Her first reaction is not to turn towards her coach in fear, the sky in frustration, or her teammates in embarrassment. She turns right to us- looking for the strength she needs to keep playing.

We want to throw up our hands and say, "C'mon Avery. It wasn't that hard!"

But we all wave and cheer for her more. "Nice try Ave!" Taylor yells at her, quickly looking back at his page.

"Good girl Avie, good try!" Mom yells towards her, a big smile on her face. There is nothing like watching her children play at sports. She loves to celebrate their successes with them, but the heartbreak of their failures kills her. Avery gives a recovering smile and continues running across the field.

I rest my head against the metal bar again and contemplate my boredom. Suddenly, I cannot stand it any longer. I stand up from my spot and turn to Isaac, "C'mon. Let's go do something. I'm bored."

He looks at me like I'm stupid, just sitting there in laziness.

"Hey Ike, do you know who Danielle Langer is?" Carla asks him.

Suddenly he rises to his feet too and hurries down the bleachers with me, "Nope! Gotta go!"

Mom hollers at us as we leap off the bleachers onto the ground- our bare feet making contact with the cool grass. Our shoes have been underneath the bleachers since the kick off of the game. "Where are you guys going?"

"For a walk! We're bored!" I call back to her.

"This is supposed to be a family event! Would it kill you to sit and watch Zachary?"

"Yes!" I yell back at her, biting my tongue and wondering if I shouldn't have said it. Being 17 is a tricky age. Parents are just dying to hang onto you a little bit longer- not wanting you to grow up. Therefore, they punish you for whatever they can.

She just looks back at the game though- not in the mood to continue arguing with me. Isaac and I turn and walk towards the parking lot. The soccer game is at a local middle school. The middle school is vacant since it's a Saturday. We walk in the direction of the school- just in search of something to do. Suddenly, we hear footsteps running after us.

"Wait up!" Taylor calls. He runs over to us and walks with us across the parking lot, all of us out stepping carefully and wincing when we step on a pebble.

"I thought you were reading," I tell him.

"Well it was a boring part."

We hobble over to the front of the school and walk from window to window, peering in. We see nothing but tables, chairs, and maps.

"Ever wish we went to one of these?" Taylor ponders.

"I don't," Isaac says, "Because if we did we never would have done music."

"You don't know that," Taylor argues.

A woman in a long flowing skirt walks out of one of the doors with boxes in her arms. We step away quickly from the window we're peering in- scared of being accused of spying. She walks quickly, her pupils behind the sunglasses never glancing at us. That is, until she was steps beyond us. Then she stops and turns.

"Is that Zac and Taylor Hanson?"

We look up quickly, trying to figure out who she is.

"And Isaac," I reply.

"And Isaac? Goodness gracious, what a surprise! Don't you three look older!" She sets down her boxes and pulls her glasses onto her head.

We now realize its Mrs. H. She was our vocal instructor for a couple years- the years right before MMMbop.

"Hey Mrs. Huxley," Taylor replies, remembering her full name surprisingly (and saving Isaac and me the embarrassment of not knowing it).

"How are you?" Isaac asks her, faking enthusiasm. We are not in the mood for small talk. "You back in town?"

"Yes I just returned from California a couple weeks ago and am starting a new job here at the middle school! I haven't seen you boys in years! What a career you made for yourself!"

We all nod in agreement and chat with her about the band for a couple minutes. The last time we saw her, we had just signed with Mercury Records. We had a lot of sales numbers, collaborations, and performance stories to catch up with her about.

It was all bland small talk- boring but simple. That was until she asked that question.

"Zac, how is your best friend Ellie? I remember I used to give her lessons every now and then with you guys since she liked to sing."

We all stare at her nervously. Taylor and Isaac are too afraid to talk and I just don't know the right words to say.

"Are you still best friends or something more?" She smiles and winks at me.

"Mrs. Huxley, when you were in California…you didn't hear about it because you weren't here, but Ellie passed away." Taylor explains calmly.

She looks at him, trying to let the words make sense in her mind before speaking, "Oh my goodness. That is terrible…how?"

I hate it when people say how terrible it is. Trust me! We know! We were there when the hospital called! We were at the funeral with her rubbery body! We locked ourselves in our rooms for days!

Taylor frowns, the big brother role he was trying to take too hard for him to handle. He realizes he can hardly speak about Ellie's death without getting upset about it.

"It was a car accident. Drunk driver. Not Ellie- but she was a victim." Isaac explains. None of us like to tell the details that Ellie made the decision to get into the car with the drunk. We like to pretend she was smart and said, "No, no. I have people who care about me. I cannot get in the car." We like to pretend it was some deranged driver coming down the road- someone she didn't even know.

Mrs. Huxley gasps, covers her mouth with her palm, and closes her eyes for a brief moment. "My apologies…my deepest apologies." She looks directly at me when she says it. She can see the hurt in Isaac and Taylor's eyes, but she looks directly at me.

I nod, "It's been awhile now. Everyone's dealing with it okay."

She reaches to me and gently pats my back. It's an awkward touch- an awkwardness we both try to ignore. "You'll see her one day again in Heaven."

I nod and look down, kicking my bare foot against the sandy sidewalk.

"I was just heading to the grocery store so I should go, but it was nice seeing you three. Tell your parents hello for me. Again, I'm sorry."

We all nod and fake smiles. "We will, thanks." Isaac says as she picks up her boxes.

"Bye!" She calls, walking towards the car. I can see she is a bit shaken up about what we told her.

Taylor, Isaac, and I stand there awkwardly. We cannot figure out whether or not we're supposed to be happy or sad. We don't know if silence or conversation is appropriate.

Finally, I speak up. "We mourned about Ellie a long time ago. And too many times since. We don't need to dwell on her death right now, right here. C'mon."

Taylor and Isaac try to read my expression, seeing if I mean it. And I do mean it. I am proud of myself for choosing not to mourn over Ellie every time she is mentioned. Ellie will not ruin our mood.

"Alright, c'mon. Let's look for an adventure." Isaac says, rubbing his palms together.

Taylor and I exchange expressions and start cracking up. "What a nerd…" I mumble.


Thirty minutes later, Isaac, Taylor and me are stripped down to our boxers standing on large rocks on the edge of a pond.

"Why are we doing this?" Taylor questions, always the nervous one when it comes to craziness.

"Because it's hot!" I announce.

"And we're spontaneous people Taylor!"

"If you have to speak about your spontaneity and use that as a justification, does that truly make you spontaneous?" Taylor questions.

We frown at Taylor and choose to ignore his ridiculously philosophical question. He's just a wimp about cold water and we all know it.

"Well I'm not getting in first," he adds.

"Fine, I will." I tell him, and look down at the muddy lake. Isaac and Taylor stand there watching me. I know now that I've said it I have to do it. Without much hesitation, I plunge into the summer water. I reemerge and look at my brothers. "It's not so bad! Get in!"

Isaac jumps in after me, jumping in without getting his hair wet. He's tall enough to stand with the water only reaching his shoulders. He wraps his arms around his body and shivers. Then he looks at Taylor, drops his arms, and quits shivering, "Yeah, it's not too bad."

Taylor grins and sits down on the large, dry rock. "Yeah right. You look like you just jumped off the Titanic into the icy Atlantic. I think I'll enjoy myself on this rock, thank you." He lays back on the rock and looks up at the cloudless, blue sky. "I'll tan."

"Tay, get in the water!" I yell at him, "Quit being a baby!"

"You two are the childish losers who are in the middle of a random pond halfway naked!" He laughs to himself.

Isaac and I look at each other and without words, both slowly start walking over to Taylor's tanning rock.

He hears us and sits up, leaning back on his elbows. "I wouldn't do what you're thinking about doing if I were you."

Isaac and I inch closer. Taylor suddenly jumps up and runs over to our pile of clothing.

"Take another step and…" He looks through the pile and pulls out Isaac's cargo shorts. "These are going in the water."

"Tay just get in and make this easier on everyone."

"No it's dirty and cold. I just wanted to watch you two fools get in." He laughs to himself again, just to be obnoxious.

I step closer to the shore and Taylor launches the khaki shorts into the water. They float along the surface for a moment before Isaac snatches them and holds them above the surface.

"You asshole!" He rings out his shorts and glares at Taylor.

Taylor grins and continues looking through the pile. As he picks up my shirt, I run to the shore and wrap my arms around his waist. He screams like a little girl and Isaac runs over too. Together, we grab Taylor and yank him into the water with us. Taylor and my shirt.

"Douche bags!" He shrieks, treading in the water to the best of his ability. "The bottom of this pond is disgusting."

"Lady Taylor can't handle a little mud." Isaac taunts.

"How is he going to handle the leaches then?" I ask Isaac.

Taylor screams and frantically runs to the shore. Isaac and I laugh together, shaking our heads happily.

"Get back in," Isaac teases, "There are no leaches."

Taylor looks distrusting at us before slowly wading back into the water. "I suppose it's not so bad, once you get used to it squishing between your toes. Ew…"

"Leaches aren't so bad either. Once you get used to them sucking your blood through your skin."

He tries to ignore me and swims around the water a bit. "So what's the point in this again? What do we do now that we're in the water?"

Before we can answer, we hear a voice. A girl's voice. We all stop and listen carefully, looking towards the bodies moving through the woods behind the middle school. They are headed right for the pond.

"You can get off the leash now," A girls voice says, "Wanna go swimming Curry?"

Within seconds, a yellow lab is running towards the water at us. He leaps over our pile of clothes and splashes into the lake. A teenage girl runs after him, stopping quickly when she sees us.

"Curry! Get out of there! Come here!" She yells.

The dog paddles towards Taylor, who is closest to shore, and tries to grab onto Taylor's body with his thick nails. Taylor yelps and backs away, holding the dog off with his hands.

"Curry!" The girl yells, patting her legs towards the dog. Curry finally notices and runs out of the water over to her. She grabs his collar and holds onto him firmly. "I am really sorry. I didn't realize people were swimming."

Taylor hurries to shore- scared of the dog almost drowning him again. He realizes it was a stupid decision when he notices how much his boxers are sticking to his body and how defined his butt looks in the drenched underwear. He quickly sits down on the rock again, looking at the girl.

"Well, sorry. It was their brilliant idea. They dragged me in." He defends himself.

"Oh, well I never knew people swam in this water."

"Yeah, I don't think you're supposed to…" Taylor mutters.

I can tell she is checking Taylor out, even as unattractive as he looks in his soaked plaid boxers.

"We were watching my sisters soccer game and we got bored…" Isaac tries to defend us, "So we decided to jump in here."

Curry struggles at her side, trying to run for the water. "My sister is playing too. I got bored too."

"We'll get out so he can swim," Isaac adds, hurrying towards the water. I follow him, embarrassed, but with no other solution.

When we reach the land the girl lets go of Curry and he plunges right back into the water.

Isaac and I shuffle over to our pile of clothing and pull on t-shirts. Taylor enjoys showing off his perfectly thin and surprisingly toned stomach in front of the girl.

"What's your name?" He asks, squinting up at her and making eye contact. Isaac and I exchange faces as this already taken flirt turns on his charm. C'mon Taylor. You cannot even handle the one girl you have already.

"Prairie," She says.

"Prairie? As in a field?"

"Named after a grassland, yep."

Taylor smiles, "Pretty."

We all watch Curry splash around in the water. I finally take a moment to look over Prairie. She has sandy blond hair, lighter than Ellie's. She is a bit taller than Ellie was but her physique is pretty similar. I realize how pathetic it is that I compare everything in my life to the late Eloise Farrell.

"What are your names?"

Taylor puts his hand up a bit and replies, "Tay. Well, Taylor." The huskiness of his voice that Isaac and I always wish we had shines through.

"Taylor? As in…" She searches for a word.

He smiles, "There are no weird nature words that have to do with my name, thank you very much."

She smiles back and looks at Isaac and me.

"I'm Ike, and he's Zac."

Thanks Ike. God forbid I introduce myself.

"Ohhh…you're the Hanson's."

"You say that like it's a bad thing." Taylor frowns.

"A bad thing? Oh, no, of course not, unless boys in tight leather pants singing words like MMMbop scare you…"

I cannot help but chuckle, especially by the hurt expression on Taylor's face. There is nothing better than seeing the girl Taylor is flirting with insult him. It's not that Taylor means to flirt with her. He loves Anna and we know it. It's just part of Taylor's personality to flirt with the female species and we're used to it. In fact, come to think of it, Taylor flirts with everyone. He is a people pleaser. He always knows the right thing to say to people.

"Curry!" She calls to the dog, and grabs a stick. She tosses it far out for him to retrieve.

"How old are you anyway?" Taylor asks.

"Seventeen," She responds, "Why do you ask?"

"Oh, just wondering. Zac's seventeen too." He nods at me.

Isaac clumsily tries to put on his wet shorts, courtesy of the genius Taylor Hanson himself.

She finally takes the moment to really study me. "Cool."

"Which team is your sister on?" Taylor asks.

"Oh, she plays for Jenks."

"My sister too! I'll bet you they're on the same team."

We all look up and turn as we hear my mother shrieking into the woods, "Isaac, lets go! The game is over and we're going out for lunch!" No matter how old we grow, Mom will always hold Isaac responsible for us.

We all grab the remaining discarded clothing and tuck it beneath our arms.

"It was nice meeting you," Taylor says to her. "That's our parental unit."

"Coming, Mom!" Isaac yells to her, "How in hell did she know we were down here?"

She waves us goodbye, "Nice meeting you three too. See you later."

We all run after my mother's voice and emerge out of the woods to find our family's van parked at the edge of the parking lot- loaded with siblings.

Isaac slides open the door and jumps in, Taylor and I jumping in after him. I swing the van door shut and climb into a seat, trying not to drip too much.

"Isaac! What in earth were you doing?" Mom gasps

"Why am I being yelled at?"

"Because you're an adult?"

"Since when can't adults have fun too?"

"We went swimming," Taylor chimed in, "It was their idea and they pulled me in." And to think at first I thought he was speaking for the better of the three of us. Yeah right.

Dad speeds out of the parking lot. Suddenly, I remember our shoes.

"Did you get our shoes?"

"What shoes?" Mom asks.

"The shoes we left underneath the bleachers. Did you grab them?"

"How was I to know they were there?" Mom raises her voice.

None of us answer as Dad pulls into someone's drive way to turn around. "We're here!" Mackie announces from the seat behind us, giggling at his joke. "We're here for lunch!"

Dad angrily drives back to the field. "The three of you could be at least a bit more responsible! You're old enough not to be so goddamn thoughtless all the time, you know."

"Walker," Mom warns him. I cannot help but be reminded of the days when I was still a kid. When dad was actually around then (not busy at work) it felt like he was always just yelling at us.

"I don't know how we're going to go out to lunch with the three of them soaked and naked!"

"We're not naked…" Taylor mumbles.

He pulls up to the soccer field again and parks quickly, all of us jerking in our seats.

"Go!" He hollers. "Go get your shoes!"

We whip the door open and run across the pavement, wincing again at the piercing pebbles in our feet.

Isaac looks fairly normal, simply sprinting across the field to the bleachers in wet clothing. I look pretty darn stupid, running for my sandals clad in my boxers and t-shirt.

Taylor on the other hand? There is no word in the English language to describe how ridiculous Taylor looked. Taylor streaks across the field in only his soaked boxers- the cotton fabric sticking to his skin and defining his entire torso.

I watch him run after Isaac and me, throwing my head back in laughter. It's times like these where I simply just enjoy my brothers. It's times like these when we can pretend we have no baggage to carry- that we're just carefree kids again.


Chapter Eleven