Diego gulps down Orange Crush on such a regular basis that I’m surprised his teeth haven’t turned orange yet. As a frequent witness to this uber-consumption, you can imagine I’m not at all shocked to discover that he tastes like Orange Crush too. His teeth. His tongue. His lips. They’re all smack full of concentrated orange fizz flavour. There’s, like, a full-scale explosion of carbonated orange going on in his mouth, and mine too since I’m sharing his.
At first I get the feeling that he’s not really into what we’re doing, that he’s humouring me with his lips while his heart aches for his ex, Elodie out in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. I know he’s been gloomy since she broke it off, which was the entire point of this exercise – gloom-banishing. But I’m the kind of person who can (sometimes) admit when I’m wrong, so I ease my mouth away from Diego’s and say, “Maybe this was a bad idea.”
Diego begins to nod. He opens his mouth and is on the verge of agreeing with me when I spy another idea flit across his mind and take root. “Why?” he demands in the heavy Italian accent that coats his fluent English. “Are you saying that I can’t kiss?”
A very healthy percentage of the girls (and guys!) I go to school with would rent their souls to evil forces if it meant being able to play lickey-face with the star of our senior soccer team yet somehow he’s managed to retain an endearing amount of humility. This is why I hang out with Diego. He’s the kind of person that could probably be or do anything and deep down he must have an inkling about that but he never makes anyone else feel like that gift comes at their expense. Plus, while his looks reside in the arena of Greek godishness, he also happens to be an enormous sci-fi geek. He knows Charleton Heston’s dialogue from the original version of Planet of the Apes by heart. Ditto with Donald Sutherland’s lines in the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which we both happen to prefer to the 1956 original). All these immensely appealing things about him mean we’ll never actually be anything other than friends. It would absolutely suck if one of us broke the other’s heart meaning we could never hang out again.
However, never being more than friends doesn’t mean we can’t kiss a little for the greater good of him getting over Elodie. Only locking lips with Diego doesn’t seem to be accomplishing that, not remotely. Two seconds before I pulled my mouth away he was kissing me the same way I usually load the dishwasher – like a thing that needs to be done but is in itself entirely joyless. I swear I’m not insulted, but if kissing me’s not going to be any more fun for him than tying his shoelaces, I can’t see the point.
“I’m sure you can you kiss when you want to,” I tell him. “But with this whole Elodie thing you obviously don’t feel like it. Maybe you’re not ready to be distracted. It was probably just a stupid idea in the first place.”
Diego shifts his gaze from my face to the wall and then back to me. His left foot anxiously taps the floor. “One more try,” he says, scrunching his eyebrows. “Okay?”
I can’t help but smile. Now he’s thinking of this as a challenge. He wants to prove to me that he can kiss and that’s so not the issue but that’s not to say another kiss won’t accomplish our original goal.
So I greenlight Act II. But I let Diego make the first move this time. Let him tell me we should lie down on the couch. Let him lie on top of me and kiss me like he could’ve kissed me in the first place if he’d wanted to. He’s Orange Crush delicious and heavier than I would’ve guessed but I don’t care that he’s squashing me because this time we’re having fun. If I could work out a way for us to do this a couple of times a week without it leading down the thorny path to boyfriend-girlfriendship and eventual breakup I’d seriously consider suggesting it.
But unfortunately it’s a problem I just can’t see my way around and besides…
Besides, the sound of feet padding away from us out in the hall concludes our experiment, at least for today. My brother Nick’s been immersed in some top secret crisis since Christmas and told me just yesterday that he was planning to lay low at his friend’s place for the next couple of days, but Mom would’ve interrupted us. That must mean it was Nick who got an eyeful from the hall. Should I pretend I didn’t hear him? And then what? It’s not like I can go back to making out with Diego knowing that Nick’s in the vicinity. That might’ve work for my brother and his ex-girlfriend Sasha but it’s too claustrophobic-freaky for me.
Diego sits up fast, his eyes scanning the bit of hall he can see from our spot on the family room couch. “Stay here,” I say, sitting up next to him. “I’ll go take care of this.”
Diego runs a hand through his hair and frowns. “Relax,” I say, smiling as I squeeze his forearm. “Now I’m fully convinced you can kiss like a champion.”
Diego returns my smile. “You should never have doubted me,” he jokes back.
I didn’t. Who would?
A thunking noise leads me along the hall and towards the kitchen where, sure enough, my brother is exuding the same messed up vibes that were hanging off his being before he left for his friend’s place yesterday. I hate that he won’t tell me what’s been going on with him lately and I especially hate that he caught me on the couch with Diego. I should be able to have some secrets too.
I spy Nick’s backpack on the tile floor and Nick himself is staring at me like he wants to have this conversation even less than I do. His cheeks are pink, as though he walked home in the cold.
“What’re you doing here?” I ask, folding my arms in front of me. “I thought you were staying at Nathan’s.”
“Sasha’s coming over,” Nick says in a tense voice. Sasha hasn’t been here since they broke up more than a month and he doesn’t sound exactly thrilled at her imminent arrival, but before I can ask him what’s up, Nick turns the tables and wants to know who’s in the other room. I’ve barely said Diego’s name when the front doorbell rings. Being saved by the bell is one of those things that happen in real life, not just in fiction, and this is one of those instances.
Nick hurries for the door and I head back to Diego, thinking about our interrupted Orange Crush kiss, how my mouth still tastes like oranges and how it’s possible that I’ll associate Orange Crush with kissing Diego for a long time to come.
“Are we in trouble?” Diego asks as I stride into the room.
“Nope. Not at all.”
“Good,” Diego says as I sit down next to him. We smile Orange Crush smiles at each other as I turn on the TV and we begin to fall back into what we’re best at, which is being the kind of friends who would never, ever break each other’s hearts, but who, maybe under the most special extenuating circumstances, could kiss a little in the service of a greater good.
Hehe, now we know what Holland does when her parents are out! Want to know more about her brother though? You then have to read I Know It's Over!
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