Any Red-Blooded Girl,
I WAS afraid to look down. Were his pants unzipped? Shit. What was I going to do if that was my present? I mean, we’d rehearsed all these lame ways to turn a boy down in Sex Ed, but I’d forgotten the whole routine already. The truth was, I hadn’t paid much attention in Sex Ed in the first place, since my prospects of getting anywhere near a boy I liked in the next century seemed dismal. Most of the time when I liked someone, they never liked me back. I was cursed—until now, which left me entirely unprepared for whatever was in Mick’s pants.
“Okay, close your eyes again,” he said.
“Do I have to?”
“You said you loved surprises.”
Any Red-Blooded Girl
A Novel by
Copyright © 2011 by Tara Nelsen-Yeackel
Cover Art © 2011 by Brittany Cain
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, or events is coincidental and unintended.
To every girl
“FLORA Moon Fontain! Get up!” my mother shouted from the doorway of my bedroom. “The car’s packed, and your dad and Will are already outside.”
Ugh. A family camping trip. I was supposed to be in Europe with Jessie, the best friend a girl could ever wish for—sipping espresso at an outdoor café in Rome; posing for cutesy tourist pics at the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe; riding the Tube and talking in a subpar cockney accent. I was supposed to be having fun.
“Uh-huh,” I groaned and rolled over, pulling the covers tight around my shoulders.
My mother flipped on the overhead light. “Flora, I mean it. We have to go. If we don’t get on the road now, we’re going to be stuck in rush hour traffic in the city.”
The city? Since when was my mother so familiar with New York City? We live in Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Home of the weather-predicting groundhog. The last time my mother was anywhere near the city was probably before I was born.
I flung the thin quilt aside and stretched out in a toe-curling yawn, but my mother just stared at me.
“Okay…geez…I’m coming,” I promised. “You can go now.”
Even though I was more prepared to endure a brain tumor than two weeks of camping hell, I rolled out of bed and tugged on yesterday’s rumpled jeans. The Elmo T-shirt I’d worn to bed was perfect for the eight hour car ride, since nobody would see me in it anyway. But then there was the matter of my hair. Since the peroxide fiasco, there wasn’t really much I could do with the frizzy orange mess. So I wiggled a checkered headband from my underwear drawer and flattened my crispy bangs against my forehead. It was about the worst I’d ever looked, and to be honest, I didn’t really care.
With my overstuffed duffel slapping against my knees, I stumbled down our front steps toward the rented SUV. The thing was a monstrosity, but I was still glad Mr. Tightwad (that’s my dad) had splurged on it. I mean, it was bad enough we were going to be stuck together in a tent for two weeks, but if we’d somehow managed to cram all of our camping gear into Mr. Tightwad’s little Hyundai, I would have hurled myself to the ground and refused to go.
“Back here!” my dad called, waving eagerly from behind the SUV.
I stepped off the curb with the enthusiasm of a death row prisoner, but as usual, my father was oblivious. He just shot me this moronic happy-go-lucky smile and dropped my bag in the back.
And by the time I hoisted myself into the SUV, my mother was already curled up in the passenger seat with a stack of color-coded maps. Apparently she’d planned every second of this torture-fest down to the last detail. Honestly, I think she missed her calling. Instead of spending her life sticking her fingers down people’s throats (she’s a dental hygienist, by the way) she should have been a travel agent. That way she could torture strangers, instead of me—and get paid for it.
I claimed the seat in front of my brother, Will, who was sprawled out on the third row bench in his shiny red and silver track uniform. But before I could even settle into a good funk, there was a knock at my window.
“Cell phones; iPods; MP3 players; any other electronical doohickeys you two have stashed back there,” my dad demanded from the sidewalk, holding his hands out in front of him like he was expecting something to drop down from heaven. “Hand ’em over.”
“What?” I protested. “Why?”
Will started rummaging through his backpack, like he was actually going to comply with such an insane request.
My father just smiled. “Because we’re going back to nature,” he said. “We’re cutting ties with all things technological. Plus, you never know what could disturb Champ.”
Again with the Champ talk? If you’ve never heard of Champ, or Champy, or the Champster, or Mr. Champs (all names this creature is known by in our house) don’t worry. You’re not alone. Champ is basically Lake Champlain’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, and we’re going to search for him on our trip. In fact, the hunt for Champ is probably the only reason Mr. Tightwad even agreed to a vacation in the first place.
“That’s not fair. I need my stuff. Is Mom giving up her phone?” I whined, hoping my dad would fall for the equality argument.
“As a matter of fact, no. Your mother is keeping her phone. But she’s leaving it turned off. It’s only for emergencies.”
“Just give it to him,” Will piped up from the backseat. “It’s not like you’re gonna use it.”
It figured. It was just like Golden Boy to contradict me in an argument with our parents. Who was he trying to impress anyway? I mean, Mom and Dad liked him best since before I was born, so there was no contest there. I guess maybe he was just shooting for a few final brownie points before he went off to college.
“You don’t know that,” I objected. “People might be trying to call me. I’m not a leper, you know.”
But the truth was, my brother was probably right. Since the Beer Incident, it was doubtful I’d be popular again any time soon.
“Whatever,” Will snarked.
I cranked down the window and thrust my cell phone and MP3 player at my dad. “Here.”
“Muchas gracias,” the old man chirped. “And don’t worry, Flowbee. We’re gonna have lots of fun—even without all these fiddley-widdleys.”
I swear to God, if I hear my dad say doohickey, or fiddley-widdley, or refer to me by the name of a do-it-yourself haircutting machine one more time, I’ll scream. I mean, under normal circumstances, I can take Mr. Tightwad, Golden Boy, and the Mental Hygienist (a.k.a. my mother) in small doses. They can even be quite entertaining if you’re in the right frame of mind. But now, since I’m a virtual prisoner, since they think I’m devil spawn…well, my patience is wearing pretty thin.
As we pulled away from the curb, I shut my eyes and tried to disappear. Maybe if I was lucky, I could wish myself out of this horror. Because honestly, the trip to Europe with Jessie was the one thing I’d been looking forward to in my drop-dead boring existence. I mean, I have no boyfriend; I have a limited pool of decent friends; I’m an average student; I’m not athletic, like Golden Boy; I have no special talents I’m aware of. Europe was my escape. My adventure. My chance to reinvent myself. Heck, maybe if the stars had aligned just right, I would’ve even snagged an Italian stud along the way. Now I’d never know.
And the worst thing was, what nixed my European vacation in the first place wasn’t even my fault. It was stupid, lame Jimmy Bickford’s. After all, if he hadn’t smuggled those beers into my ’80s movie-palooza, I’d be clutching a barf bag on a trans-Atlantic flight as we speak.
“Flora, did you hear me?” my mother asked, distracting me from my
“I said Mrs. Hobson was in the office yesterday for a root canal, and Dr. Brown had to drill her tooth so deep it almost cracked in half. Can you imagine?”
Unfortunately, I could imagine. I could imagine all too clearly. Because Mrs. Hobson was my math teacher from freshman year, and my mother loved to tell gory stories about painful dental work. Yipee.
“Uh-huh. That’s nice.”
“Nice, Flora? I don’t think so. The poor woman was terrified. But Dr. Brown is so good with the patients…” Blah. Blah. Blah.
I suppose I should’ve tried harder to follow my mother’s crazy story, since she was actually still talking to me after the Beer Incident. But honestly, I just couldn’t muster the energy.
As tired as I was, though, I was also restless. And bored. I must say, Mr. Tightwad sure knows how to suck even the tiniest shred of joy from my feeble existence.
Desperate, I turned to Will for entertainment. “So when’s Nat leaving for Tulane?” I asked, figuring he might talk to me about his girlfriend, who was ditching him for college in Louisiana.
“What do you care?”
“I don’t know. I just thought you might be kinda bummed,” I said. “I mean, you guys have been together like forever.”
“For your information, I support Nat’s decision,” Will claimed. “Sure, it would’ve been nice if she’d stayed around here, since I’m going to Temple. But Tulane has a great pre-med program, and…” He paused and shook his head. “Listen, it’ll be better for both of us. We’ll have a chance to do our own thing for a while. We’ll keep in touch. If it works out, we’ll know it’s real. We’ll know it’s right.”
I’d never felt so bad for my brother in my whole life. Because even though he was trying to sound all logical and self-assured, he really just sounded brokenhearted. Plus, I could tell everything he’d just told me had come directly from Natalie. It was how she’d explained things to him when she broke the news of her departure. In a way, though, I couldn’t blame Natalie for leaving Punxsutawney. It could be the most tedious place on earth. I bet she thirsted for something different, something exciting, something new. Hell, sometimes I even wish for bad stuff to happen, just to shake things up a little (not death or destruction, of course—maybe just a scary thunderstorm or a sprained ankle).
“Well, that makes sense,” I lied. “Sounds like you guys have things all figured out.”
“Yeah, we do.”
I picked up one of my mother’s handy-dandy roadmaps and fanned myself. “Are you hot?” I asked Will.
“Well, I’m freakin’ sweating,” I complained. “Dad, can you turn on the AC?”
“Air conditioning? Already?” my father asked, as if I’d requested a five-course meal. He tapped the LCD display on the dashboard. “It’s only seventy-three degrees,” he reported. “Seventy-five. That’s the optimal temperature for air conditioning. We’ll shoot for that.”
Holy shit. Apparently Mr. Tightwad must have read some article that suggested avoiding air conditioning until you just about croaked. That should save us about fourteen cents.
“So I have to sit here and drown in my own sweat?” I whined. “Can we at least roll down the windows?”
“Okie dokie, smokie,” my dad agreed. “You go right on ahead and do that.”
All I can say is, it was going to be a long two weeks. Two weeks I’d never get back. Two weeks I should have spent having the time of my life in an exotic locale with my best friend in the whole wide world. Who knew, maybe Jessie could have twice as much fun to make up for my misery. At least that might take some of the sting out of how things had turned out.