Sunday, December 17, 2006

Stevo the fixer

Thursday, November 16, 2006, 6:58pm
Steve's house

"Is Tim there?" Chris asks.

"No, she's working. Why, you gonna hit on her next?"

"Shut up. She's working at that steakhouse now, right?"

"Yeah, she comes home in the middle of the night."

"In that case, can you come over to Irene's house?"



"Why are you being such a bitch?" Irene screams at Kristen.

"You're the one dating a married man!"

"Oh, like you didn't go out with a married guy last year," Irene hisses.

"He wasn't married in my eyes, because she didn't treat him right."

"Oh my God," Irene chuckles, derisively.

Kristen wheels around. "Oh, hi, Steven," she purrs, and her warm smile makes my stomach hitch. She kisses me slowly on the cheek, as if... if she had a major crush on me. Was this the girl who was screaming uncontrollably 10 seconds ago?

"Sit down, I'll get you a drink."

"Thanks, Kristen."

"Call me Krista."

"You're engaged! Why are you still living at home, anyway?" Krista snaps to Irene, as she hands me an icy Diet Coke.

"You know why! We got engaged and he left for Iraq the next day!"

"Why didn't you live together before? And why did he go back to that idiotic war if he loved you so much?"

"Why don't you mind your own business?"

"Thought so," Krista says, plopping down on the sofa next to me.

"Steve has a girlfriend, you know," Irene sneers. "Better stay far away."

Krista launches herself off the couch, and for a crazy moment I think she's going to attack Irene. Chris and I flinch simultaneously, ready to break them up.

"Can we please go for a ride?" Krista asks, her eyebrows raised pleadingly, like a little girl's.


"You probably think I'm crazy," Krista says.

Well, that's a very relative term... nope, on second thought, you're crazy.

"I think you two should lay off of each other."

"She's such a bitch!"

"Krista, no she isn't. And even if she is, she's your only sister."

"I knoww,"she whines, again reminding me of a child.

"I know you don't approve of her and Chris, but she's old enough to make her own decisions. If you really disagree, you should tell her in a supportive way."'

"So when did you get this car?" she asks, running her hand over the freshly-Armor All'd dashboard. Guess she's done talking about her sister.

"It's a couple years old. I hardly use it. I think I'm trading it in for a 4Runner."

"You're such a loser," she snips, staring straight ahead.

"You love to start fights, don't you?"

"You're stupid! You quit your job, you're selling your car. Your girlfriend has you wrapped around her little finger!"

Obviously, this girl thrives on conflict. She loves screaming matches and bare-toothed anger. Staying calm ought to screw her up, but good.

"Yeah, she probably does," I smile.

She stares at me.

"What?" I ask.


She's 24, a couple of years older than Irene. No job. She quit school after sophomore year--not that her degree in archaeology was going to bring a stampede of hiring managers to her doorstep anyway--and she has absolutely no employment prospects.

"So what do you--do all day?"

"You sound like my mother."

"It's not good to sit around, Krista."

"Don't lecture me," she says, quietly, but I can barely hear her. "Can we talk about something else, please?"

The conversation turns to movies, and her mood lightens quickly. She loves Monty Python; all I have to do is utter the words, "Cheese Shop", and she collapses in giggles.

Tim calling, my phone says.

Instinctively, I glance at Krista, who has already pulled out her own phone. She powers it down noiselessly, then sits statue still, looking directly in front of her.

"Where are you?" asks Tim.

"I was out of wheat bread."

"You're being quiet."

"I'm okay. How's work?"

Krista stares silently out the window. I am impressed with her; she knew it was my girlfriend on the phone, and, with no hesitation, made herself as quiet as a Las Vegas confessional. She's done this before. She's sat in the passenger seat next to guys who were supposed to be at work, or drinking beer with their buddies. She's probably lost track of how many times.

" I told them that I can't do my job if I don't have proper equipment. It's like, so ridiculous! They have money for new curtains, but they can't buy a basket for the deep fryer?"

"I hear ya."

"I better get back," she sighs. "I'll see you when I get home."

Krista snaps back to life immediately as the phone beeps off. Here come the questions: How long have you two been dating, what does she do, do you love her, and are her hips skinnier than mine.

"I appreciate you getting me out of the house."

"You're welcome."

"There's a Starbuck's up ahead. I'll buy you a coffee, if you want."

She didn't mention Tim, not one word. She knows the rules, and apparently she accepts them. Clearly she lacks the self-respect to believe she deserves a real relationship, so she bounces from one taken man to another, giving each a couple of months' worth of sexual highlight reels before the inevitable "I can't do this to my wife anymore" speech.

Her face softens as she sips her latte, the way it did when she kissed my cheek. Her brown eyes seem bigger somehow, and I suddenly want desperately to kiss her as she licks foam from her supple lips...