On Friday, Jade suggests they play spin the bottle.
It’s kind of a silly idea because she and John are cousins, Dave and Rose are twins, and John and Dave are wusses so they only make it past a few tame pecks before it turns into less of a kissing game and more of a truth or dare spin off, ironic pun not intended – the four of them sprawled out on the old dusty rug of Jade’s basement.
Dave asks, “So, Johnny boy,” all southern drawl and shades askew on his face, head resting on the curve of Jade’s back. “Would you rather… Reset every memory in your brain, except for, yanno, reading and writing and that kind of shit, or like…” He pauses, thinking. The television in the background is flashing a trailer for a new summer blockbuster and John eyes it, absentminded. “Make out with an anime cat boy. Tail and ears and rough cat tongue and all.”
“Ugh, Dave, gross.” John says, scrunching his nose. He doesn’t sound mad about it, though. Maybe even sorta amused by Dave’s so-called lewdness (it’s actually sexiness in disguise, but he doesn’t really expect people to get that). “I am not a homosexual, but I wouldn’t really want to forget you guys. Or that one time I won a free day pass to the amusement park, or when Natasha whatsherface took off her blouse in seventh grade to prove that she, in fact, did have boobs. Watching Inception for the first time all over again would be priceless, though. But still, not gay. So no cat makeouts for John, nope. Unless we’re talking cat-girl makeouts. Then yes please.”
Dave rolls his eyes. “Nope, we’re talking kawaii catdudes here, don’t get yourself all worked up, Egbert. Besides homo or no homo doesn’t really matters in this game, dude. Harley here present isn’t really necrophiliac, well, as far as we know, but she’d still rather kiss my gorgeous dead body back into cruel life than shooting her devilbeast of a dog dead. Can’t blame her, I know, I know, but it still makes your argument pretty much invalid.”
“Well, I do love Bec!” Jade interjects, voice heavy with justification. She raises herself on her elbows, Dave’s head rolling slightly into dangerous territory when she adds, “Kissing your dead face wouldn’t really be all that much different from kissing your alive face, though. I would know, Dave. I’ve tried.”
She tries to pat his head condescendingly, mock sympathy all over her delicate features, and only barely succeeds at reaching his chest before Dave shooshes her hand away and frowns.
“You wouldn’t be able to handle the full Strider mack-on, Harley.” He tries to inflict a shade of innuendo into his voice, jokingly, but it comes out far more like a dare than he intended, all sexy drawls and invitation. “I was goin’ easy on them virgin lips of yours. We want no MTV’s 'Sixteen and Pregnant’ knocking on your door, yeah?”
Jade rolls from under his head and sits up, laughing at him like he is a stupid, but still lovable cat video on YouTube.
“Betcha this so called Strider mack-on wouldn’t even make me swoon,” She teases, easily. “Besides I’ve kissed boys before. If we’re discussing virgin lips here then it’s dear old John who is in desperate need of being swept off his feet, Mr. Strider.”
John snorts at this. “First I’m kissing boys, then I’m not kissing boys, would you people please decide the status of my oral maidenhood so I can post it on my facebook profile already?” And here he shoots Jade a dirty look, all obvious betrayal scrawled messily on his face. Jade smiles, completely unapologetically. Dave snickers. “And I don’t know if you guys were actually here, but I totally smooched Rose back when this game actually made a sprinkling of sense. You would have noticed if you and Miss Secretteller McExperiencedpants hadn’t been grossly flirting all over the place?”
“It pains me to inform you, John dearest, that ours, as sad as the notion does make me, would hardly be considered a kiss even by the loosest of standards. My most sincere apologies. ” Rose smiles down at him, merciless, fingers running through John’s mess of a hair. “I did barely brush the side of your mouth before you pulled away, complaining about me getting, and I quote, ‘disgusting black goo all over your face’. Certainly not the gentlemanly thing to do, I’m afraid.”
As much as he tries to fight it, for the sake of his macho-dignity, John ends up pouting. “But Rose,” he complains, “I totally did want to kiss you! I think you’re super hot and everything! Just. Why can’t you wear instead sexy red lipstick like movie stars in the 40’s? Like Marylin Monroe in Some Like It Hot? Why, Rose, why can’t you?”
Rose laughs, a hand curving delicately over her mouth. “No can do, pardonnez-moi. Black represents elegance and dissatisfaction with the system. Besides it does disconcert people, which is very amusing to watch.”
John crosses his arms over his chest and pouts some more. Rose brushes his hair gently, nails scraping softly against his scalp and John does his best not to lean into her touch, childishly.
“Aw, John, don’t be sad you totally blew your chance with Rose!” Jade giggles a little, because John is cute and teasing him is a lot more fun than he’d probably be comfortable with. She smiles and leans down on her elbows again, face close to her cousin’s. “I can give you a real kiss if you want to!” She scrunches her nose in disgust, just like John’s did moments earlier; a family trait. “I hate lip gloss, you know.”
Rose raises a delicately tweezed eyebrow at Jade. She, in return, gives Rose a mischievous glance, then looks back to John. John misses it. Dave does not.
“I mean, I hate wearing it. Not. Kissing it. Or whatever.” She amends, but John just rolls his eyes, giving it no thought. Dave raises an eyebrow. “Whatever!”
“Whoa, wait,” Dave butts in, pulls Jade back to him and away from John by the hair, tugging on her ponytail gently enough not to hurt, but still in a very much rude way. “I thought I was the one being promised trademark Harley puppy kisses? Have you grown bored of me already? And what if I was planning on deflowering John’s kisser virtue? Eh, Harley? How can you dismiss a young maiden’s feelings like that? Does this means we now have to duel to the death, Harley? Because, for John, I would. I’d make it happen.” He presses a hand to his chest, like a knight, all mock longing for a second, then drops it. Deadpans, “besides kissing cousins is gross.”
John snorts, unimpressed. “Kissing cousins is gross but you totally snogged Rose, what, like, half an hour ago tops? Hypocrisy is rude, Dave.”
“But kissing twins is totally different, my sweet naïve Egbert.” Dave snickers, patting John’s chest condescendingly. John raises an eyebrow as if to ask how so. “Roxy and Bro would make us kiss all the time when we where little, dress us up and they’d take pictures and all that shit. I can barely feel the excruciating pain anymore.”
“Aw, that sounds so cute!” Jade exclaims. Rose rolls her eyes at him.
“As much as I loathe doing so, I have to agree with my brother here. I refuse to acknowledge loosing my very first dozen of kisses to a clay-eating five year old with ridiculous shades and an Electra complex.”
“Bullshit, Lalonde, you dug it.” Dave sneers, pulling his tongue out at her before licking the air lecherously. Rose rolls her eyes and pretends to swoon, poker-faced. “You waited patiently every year for the next holiday you’d be able to taste the glory of these godly lips, marking each passing day in your pretty little Monett calendar with small glittery purple hearts. Mommy, I miss those a-fucking-mazing Strider dudes so much, whatever happened to them, why they’re not around anymore? And Roxy always went all, Oh, little Rosey, oh. It’s okay. We weren’t able to handle their north-pole levels of chill but I can send you over to a rich-ass summer camp to have the adventure of your life switching places with your brother, not that me or Dirk would notice, s’not like we ever gave a shit anyway, but good luck trying to bring us together again even though your father is a raging homosexual in any case.”
Rose’s lips curve into a mock frown, wiping non-existent tears from her face. “Oh, brother, why did you have to bring such disheartening topics to the conversation. You know my goal in life was to play the role of Lindsay Lohan in a very unlikely in real life Disney flick. My dreams have been crushed.” Then she smirks. “However unlikely, I am pretty sure Dirk would notice the sudden decrease in his little brother’s constant need for recognition.”
Dave opens his mouth to reply, scooting closer to his sister, but John, from his place on the floor being Jade’s little spoon, beats him. “Wait, wait! If Dave’s bro and Jade’s grandpa are dating, that means they’re kind of siblings too, doesn’t it?”
“Oh!” Jade turns to look at Dave, eyes wide, sitting up. John complains with a startled oof. “That’s so true! What if they get married, Dave? Would we get to live together? That’d be great!”
“Welp, so much for platonic English-slash-Strider makeouts, apparently. Err. Of the heterosexual kind, at least.”
Jade lets out a laugh, and pulls Dave close, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek sloppily, like a dog. “I don’t know, Dave. I don’t think Grandpa is really that into Bro? He does adores his blue ladies. Maybe it’s a phase.”
John squirms in between them. “Uh, guys-”
Dave beats him, shaking his head gravelly. “No, it’s too late, Harley. Bro’s more infatuated with Jake than an anime schoolgirl waiting for senpai to notice her. Good ol’ grandpa is in for the long run.”
“Oh, Mr. Strider,” Jade pretends to faint in his arms. Dave catches her appropriately. “Should our love be forever doomed?”
“You shall be like a star to me, Harley, only for my eyes to see, never for my hands to hold or whatever.”
Still fake-fainting, Jade opens one eye, giggling. “Well, you are already holding me, you know.”
Dave feigns to just notice this. “Oh, right. Never-fucking-mind.”
And then he kisses her. It’s a lot deeper than their spin-the-bottle kiss, all languid lips and, John notices from the awkward angle he is trapped at, a little bit of tongue at the edges. Jade sighs into Dave’s mouth, throwing one arm around his neck, and traps his lower lip between hers when he pulls away.
“Wow,” she says, and Dave grins, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively, pressing his lips to her once again. John’s gagging sounds, however, stop him right on his tracks.
“Oh, sorry, John,” Jade says, like she is not sorry at all, untangling herself from Dave. Giggles, “if you wanted a kiss from Dave too, you should have say it!”
Dave smirks. “This does only leave you and me out of the Wicked Incest Train From Hell, Egbert.”
Suddenly Roses’ hands are back on his head, gently running through his hair, but passively-aggressively holding him in place. Suddenly, he feels trapped. His mouth goes, “Eh?”
But Dave’s both hands are already on each side of his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Jade and Rose sharing an amused look. “Pucker up, princess.”
“What- No, Dave, stop-”
And then he finds himself with a mouthful of Strider.
This was Friday.
Jade’s summer house is on the beach.
They were planning to spend winter break together, but then Roses’ mum had to attend a conference, and Grandpa had a trip to Africa, and Bro had a movie to finish before new year and all their plans went downhill. Instead they decide to spend the summer together.
Jade is eight (and a half) the first time they meet.
Rose, John and Dave are the kids her Grandpa tells her to play with when they’re visiting uncle Dirk who isn’t really her uncle but he gives her cookies behind Grandpa’s back so they’re cool. It’s some kind of big reunion thing and there’s also Rose’s mum and John’s dad and aunt, and it’s fun to hear them call Grandpa Jake instead of Grandpa.
Long story short they’re best friends by the end of the night and Uncle Dirk- he’s now become Bro become so, you’re kind of my grandpa too, right? but at this time he is still Uncle Dirk, trying to pull Dave from John’s arms and their promises of speaking every single day on pesterchum, which is a promise she knows she will keep by the time she is waving them good-bye, her left hand in her Granpda’s and knowing it’ll be a while until they see each other again.
Next year, John and his dad and his aunt move to Washington, and it’s kind of sad because weren’t cousins supposed to live next door or something? But they still talk online just as they talk to Dave in Texas and two years later to Rose in London.
The next time she checks, they’re sixteen.
And wow, does time flies.
The thing’s like this. Roses’ mum used to be married to Dave’s bro, who is actually his father, but if you knew Bro you’d kind of realize why he does not really fit into a parental figure, which is kind of why he divorced Roses’ mum in the first place, but not really. They stayed best friends even though they always had been and then Roses’ mum was dating John’s dad who is Jade’s mum’s brother, so that’s her and John’s family tie right there. Jade’s mum was never really married to Jade’s grandpa who is actually her dad but he’s an old soul, he would say, and she was a lovely lady, but her health wouldn’t allow her to be a mother and he was too scared to be a father but he loved her too much to ever leave her so he decided he was going to skip being a father and start being a grandfather and that worked out just fine.
(This summer is going to be gr-e-at!)