“I don't know how you persist in being so stubborn-"
"It's a superpower. I was bitten by a radioactive mule.”
“I'm not bossy - I just happen to be more capable than most everyone else.”
“You're from where?"
"Lay'en. It's near Salt Lake City."
"Spell that for me."
"Um, that would be S-A-L-T-"
"No, the other one. The city you're from."
That's what I said."
"No you didn't. You just said, 'Lay'en.'"
"So I did. But just go ahead and pronounce 'aluminum' for me, Mr. British Man. How are you going to defend that piece of insanity? Why don't you spell it and count syllables and see if your al-um-in-ium makes sense whatsoever?"
He bowed his head. "Touché...”
“It was karma, it was kismet, it was magic. It doesn't matter how it happened, just that it did.”
“I'm sorry about these two," Mike told the waitress. "Just so you know, I'll be embarrassed with you."
"It's just that we haven't seen each other since summmer camp," Becky said.
"And we'd formed such a bond playing wily tricks on our camp counselors," Felix said.
"Remember how you replaced Miss Pepper's shampoo with liquid Jell-O and turned her hair green?"
"It was sheer genius when you stretched cling film over all the toilet seats."
"Oh." The waitress turned to Mike, as if to address the only sane member of the group. "So, are ya'll ready to eat now, or are you waiting for your date to arrive?"
Mike played with the menu. "Actually, she's my date."
"These are my two husbands," Becky said. "We're from Utah. You know, Mormom.”
“Though it's still not right. I have other best friends, and this is different. Besides, Mike is my absolute best friend."
"Yeah, I was going to say..." Mike nodded...
"That's right, honey. Felix, you're...something different."
"Amen," Mike said.
"You're not like a good neighbor or a companion for Saturday shopping, and certainly not like my husband. But you are something more than what the word 'friend' can contain. Mike has my heart, completely, eternally, no second thoughts." She grabbed Mike's hand. "But you have my...say, my liver."
Felix frowned, pondering that. "Livers are good. Positively essential, from what I remember of biology. And good eating, if the need arises. Very well. I will be your liver...”
“He would never abandon her, never leave a gaping hole, and even if he died someday, he was preserved like a lab specimen from all the alcohol he imbibed, so he wouldn't look or act much different.”
“...Speaking of, I've been playing with the letters - Lovers In a Very Enlightened Regard."
"LIVER. Good one."
"Also, how about Life Invasion Via Exceptional Respect?"
"Life Invasion. Like it."
"Or Lovelike Intensity Via Emotional Rapport."
"Doesn't that spell OLIVER?”
“How I keep trying to force our story into a fairy tale, but from the beginning, it's been more like a nursery rhyme."
"Bizarre and adorable?"
"Just like you."
"With rings in your pockets and bells on your toes"
"Ooh, I should really invest in some toes bells.”
“Thank you," Becky whispered... "I wouldn't have survived that stool. It would have been 'Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.'"
With rings on your fingers and bells on your toes even, " he said.
"Curious that meeting you is more nursery rhyme than fairy tale. If I see a farmer's wife with a butcher's knife, I'm running and not looking back."
"And I'll have no nonsense from my dish and spoon.”
“Ease up, nasty little frigid pixies”
"It's National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Didn't you know?"
"Somehow I missed the memo."
"You mean, 'Somehow I missed the memo, arrr!'"
"Precisely. Arr. So, Mrs. Jack... Er, is that still your name? Or, I tremble to ask, have you adopted a pirate identity?"
"Arr, matey, of course I have! It's..." She pulled an eggplant from the grocery bag. "Captain Eggplantier." She needed to stop speaking the first words that popped into her mind.
"Captain Eggplanteir." He sounded very doubtful.
"That's right. A family name. It's Belgian.”
“Guilt is the hyena that'll lunge from behind and hamstring you.”
“To be powerful, a kiss should make a journey, be its own story--begin with hesitation, move to realization, then melt into bliss.”
“Becky, are you studying conversational Yiddish?”
“Felix can’t act his way out of a box.” “Boxes are tricky,” Felix said, frowning. “And sometimes they’re taped shut.”
“Maybe T-shirts should stick to something obvious, like i’m a girl or 80% water or likely to breathe.”
“And he was introduced to Loki, the family’s hairless cat.
“The kids wanted another pet,” Becky explained as Felix stared in horror at the creature beside him. “But with Polly’s allergies . . .”
“You are lying to me. You borrowed this creature from a zoo to play a prank on me. This isn’t even really a cat, is it? This is some sort of rat and opossum hybrid. This is a lifelike Japanese robot that can dance to disco music.”
“Funny. They’re called sphinx cats. Come on, feel her skin. Like peach fuzz, right? Isn’t she sweet? Give her a good rub. She’s very affectionate.”
“Ah-ha, yes, isn’t that just . . . er, what is coating my hands?”
“It’s . . . it’s like a body wax. I should’ve bathed her before you came. The hairless cats, they ooze this waxy stuff to protect their skin. ’Cause they don’t have hair. To protect them. So the waxy ooze helps. You see.”
Felix stared at her for several seconds, his hands held up like a doctor about to perform surgery.
“I’m going to wash my hands now. And I’m going to try very hard not to run out of this house screaming.”
“Becky told Melissa over baba ghanoush, “Yesterday at church, a lady took me aside with the express purpose to tell me, ‘Don’t feel bad. When God closes a door, he opens a window.’ ”
Melissa choked on some pita bread.
“I kid you not. What the heck does that mean anyway? That I’m supposed to climb out a window now? Or is the window just to air out the house, which is stinking to high heaven, given the fact that the door has been shut indefinitely and NO ONE CAN GET OUT?!”
“Okay,” Melissa said, fishing scrap paper and a pen from her purse, “I want name and address. Tonight I’m going to board up her doors.”
“What’s the difference between poo and poop anyway?”
“Poo is what goes in the toilet; poop is what you find on your front lawn.”
“So is poo determined purely by its maker, or does it refer to its semiaquatic state?”
“Uh . . . all I got is poo. You’ll have to ask Felix about the details.”
“He is the poomeister.”
“Naw, I just liked the way it sounded.”
“But really, if you have the option to laugh, why ever hold it back?”
“Fans outside were screaming. Through the white noise of hollers and hoots emerged a rhythmic shout. Becky strained to understand.
“Felix, they are chanting your name.”
Felix nodded. “You see, this is exactly why I need you here.”
“To tell you what they’re chanting?”
“To laugh at it, darling. Or I might take it seriously.”
“Ten thousand square feet? Do you really need ten thousand square feet? You both take up about ten square feet with your arms outstretched, spinning in circles.”
Felix said, “The west wing is for Celeste’s wardrobe.”
Celeste said, “And the east wing is for Felix’s ego.”
“It’s not that I don’t like children; I just don’t comprehend them. What’s their purpose? Why can’t they just say what they want? Why are they always touching things and knocking things over and whining?”
She dumped a basket of socks on the floor and began to sort and match. “Here’s the thing: Given your profession, you should have that skill of observing people and getting inside them and understanding them, blah blah blah. Why can’t you just do that with children? I mean, you were a child once.”
“I hatched from an egg at age twenty-three.”
“I almost believe you.” She squinted at him. “What were you like younger?”
“Same but smaller, with slightly less facial hair.”
“Thanks for not pulling out Diplomatic Felix,” Becky whispered. “You’re showing admirable restraint. They really are very nice people. The more sane ones are being polite and giving you space while the others . . . Well, they’re just . . . they’re . . . we’re not used to . . . if Tom Selleck showed up here, I’d probably make a complete idiot out of myself.”
“And why didn’t meeting me cause the same effect?”
“Come on, sweetie. You’re great and all, but you’re no Tom Sell-eck.”
“What does he do? He smiles with dimples and grows a mustache.”
Becky patted his arm consolingly. “Someday you’ll be able to grow a mustache too. Just give it time.”
“So, it was that bad? That you couldn’t just leave Layton behind but had to flee the entire continent?”
“Mm,” Felix said noncommittally. His voice went raw. “I am sorry I left like that.”
“It’s okay. You don’t belong here. You were a wild toad caught in a mason jar.”
“With a stick and a leaf.”
“Hold on . . . am I the stick in this metaphor? Because I have lost some weight . . .”
“I didn’t know what I was doing. There was something uncomfortable about it.”
“I can’t imagine what.”
“Certainly not The Little Mermaidcomforter. That felt oh-so-right.”
“He didn’t call on Monday.
“Pay up,” she said.
“He’ll call,” Mike said. “He took a pinky pledge.”
Mike made a good point, but how long could even a sacred vow sealed by the tiniest and most loyal of digits forestall the inevitable?
They decided to give it a month. Tuesday morning the phone rang.
“Hello,” said an increasingly familiar British voice.
“Oh, hello,” Becky said, and thought both “darn” and “hooray!” at the same time. She hated to lose a bet.
“Yes, hello,” said Felix.
Becky cleared her throat. “Did you go skiing?”
“Yes, you know, we did.”
“Have a good time?”
“Good. Sounds . . . fun.”
“So, what do we do now, swap stories about our exes? Watch a reality show on the telly and narrate to each other in scandalized voices? ‘Can you believe she said that? I can’t believe she just said that.’ ”
“You don’t have many friends, do you?”
“I have thousands of fans, dozens of itinerant co-workers, a handful of acolytes, three stalkers, and a wife.”
“You have no idea how this friend business works, do you?” she asked.
“Ha!” Felix said.
“Ooh, that was a nice ‘ha.’ Full of derisive laughter and effectively evading any answer.”
“Thank you. I’ve been practicing.”
“Yeah. So, um, you have no idea how this works, do you?”
“I know there’s talking involved, don’t I? And phone calling. I’m not such an amateur as all that.”
“Felix, are you really sure you want to be friends?”
“What do you mean, am I sure? I took a pinky pledge.”
“A warm burning sensation fl ashed in her breasts, and she pressed them with backs of her wrists to stop the milk before it fl owed.
“Ugh, I’m letting down. We’ll have to make this fast so I can go pump in the bathroom. I’m used to nursing every couple of hours.”
The horror in Felix’s eyes was so intense it seemed painful. “Pretend you didn’t just say that.”
“Say what? I didn’t say anything.”
He shook his head in disgust.”
“Felix.” She let go, suddenly shy to speak. But that tense, tickly sensation running from her throat to her belly was giving her some kind of superhuman nerve. And besides, he wasn’t really Felix Callahan anymore, not in that ethereal, big-screen sense. So. She cleared her throat. “Felix, will you be my friend?”
He did laugh at her, though he didn’t seem to mean it. “Yes, we’ll get matching lockets holding strands of each other’s hair.”
“I wish the English language gave us a better option. ‘Pals,’ ‘chums,’ ‘buddies’ . . . but a word that implies the sudden and unusual nature—like ‘metabuddies.’ ”
“ ‘Metabuddies.’ Wow. This is getting serious.”
“So. Yes. Let’s be friends. That would solve some of this confused muss. Do we spit in our palms and shake?”
“I think this calls for a pinky pledge.” She hooked her pinky around his. “I, Becky Jack, agree to be Felix Callahan’s pal, even though he’s way overrated as an actor and screen hunk and can be such a brat.”
Felix cleared his throat. “I, world-famous and fabulously wealthy Felix Paul Callahan, agree to be mates with Becky, even though she wears grandmother shoes and insists on popping out children with reckless abandon and shows no remorse for her vicious right hook.”
“That was very nice. I almost shed a tear.”
“Apparently all it takes to make you weep is a singing puppet.”
“Hey, don’t sell me short. I also cry at talking socks and animated washcloths.”
“You cry in terror.”
“Well, yeah, that’s true.”
“Yes! Yes. Thank you. I’m on my way right now, so I’ll see you later, you know, like, in five minutes. And I’ll just wait in the car—you can send them out so we don’t take up any more of your time. So say hi to Clark for me, you know, since I might not get a chance to talk to you from the car. But thanks so much for watching the kids for me, and I’ll see you later . . . in five.”
There was a pause. Then Angela’s voice piped up, as enthusiastic as ever.
“Okay, see you later in five!”
Oh great, Becky thought as she jogged back to her car. Now Angela would be using that phrase, convinced it was a real idiom. And it would be all Becky’s fault. As if the poor lady didn’t have enough communication problems as it was, what with the excessive exclaiming.”
“She had an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy; but her manners were excellent.”
“It’s a grace feather. See how its colors shift from green to blue, like the sea? It means remembrance. It shows that no distance, no amount of water between two people, will make them forget. Someone gave it to say that they remembered you.”
“Thorn gripped her claws tighter. “Sunny. You’re my daughter.”
“Every now and then, if I allow my mental focus to slip, I catch myself looking at her face and forgetting how to breathe. I guess these things take time to fade completely.”
“If you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”
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