English was Angie's least favorite class. Not because of the subject; she loved reading, and she loved writing, and by all accounts English should have been her favorite class.
No, it was because of the teacher.
He barely knew enough about the books he assigned, he was constantly criticizing Angie's grammar even though his own was suspect, and he was constantly assigning group projects. Today's, though, was the worst. The rubric had already gone around the class, and so Angie was staring down at what was possibly her least favorite idea ever.
Assignment: with a partner, create a board game based on Dante's Inferno. Games must be playable and demonstrate knowledge of the book.
This might even have been fun, if it didn't come with a partner requirement. And if it didn't come with a million specifications of what they did and didn't have to include.
The teacher set the class free to pick partners, but Angie didn't want to work with anyone in the class, so she stayed where she was. Sometimes, if she stayed where she was and showed no interest in having a partner, the teacher wouldn't make her have one.
Today, however, she had no such luck. Once everyone had paired off, there was still someone else, hovering around the edges of the room. Theodosia Burr.
Not wanting the teacher to get involved, Angie walked over to Theodosia. "I think we're the only ones left."
"I think so too," Theodosia said with a grimace. "Dad's going to kill me."
"You won't be half as dead as me."
Theodosia shrugged. "At least you've got a sense of humor."
"I live with Alexander Hamilton," Angie said. "Everything has to be funny or else it's scarring."
"You poor soul."
"That's a common sentiment."
"So, anyway, about the project. We should probably work together on it, yeah?" Theodosia asked. "At one of our houses, maybe, since we'll have to make stuff that won't fit on a Starbucks table. Mine, I guess. Dad won't recognize you if I don't tell him who you are."
"We can work at my house, too," Angie said. "There are so many kids around all the time. Dad would barely notice you, and Mom wouldn't recognize you. I'll just call you a friend from school."
"Do you have a nickname? You know, so I don't have to tell my dad I'm doing a project with someone called Angelica? It's not a common name."
"Do you think he'd recognize me as Angie? Everyone calls me Angie."
"Probably not," Theodosia said. "Most people call me Theo, but that's too easy. And my mom used it once. Maybe go for Thea."
"How long will this take?"
"A few hours at most. Let's meet after school tomorrow?"
"Sure. My house? Assuming you can tolerate five younger children running around."
"And Philip, right?"
"No, he's away at Columbia now." Angie pulled out her phone. "Put your number in?"
Theo took Angie's phone, handing her own over. "I make a new contact?"
"Yeah," Angie said, punching her name and number into Theo's phone. "I'll text you with ideas."
[angie]: okay, so. i've been thinking. we don't have to do all the levels, do we?
[Theodosia]: I don't think so
[angie]: good. so we can do just the satan fight, right?
[Theodosia]: could work
[angie]: will work. three heads, each head is chewing something. so you have to roll dice to move, then roll dice to get past each head.
[angie]: you know, jj does ceramics in school. how long do we have? we could get him to make satan for us.
[angie]: he'd be thrilled. but we'd need a month. we don't have that, do we? we could get him to make little tiny game pieces. that might just take like two weeks.
[Theodosia]: That sounds far-fetched
[angie]: keep in mind he's a hamilton. hamiltons tend to work exponentially faster than most other people. thanks, dad's genes.
[angie]: also thanks, dad's genes, for skipping one.
[Theodosia]: Okay how long did you spend on that last piece for the talent show???
[angie]: like 5 hours, i think. but that's nothing compared to how fast dad writes.
[Theodosia]: Does he write music???
[angie]: no, but he can have a coherent essay in an hour.
[Theodosia]: Music is harder. Especially with lyrics. Face it, angie. You're as fast as the rest of them
[angie] i guess. whatever. i can't write music for this one.
[Theodosia]: But you can write music
[Theodosia]: You're a step ahead of the rest of us
[angie]: whatever. i'm sure you can do lots of cool stuff, too. don't you speak like three languages?
[Theodosia]: Four if you count Latin but please blame dad for that
[Theodosia]: I wouldnt have any language skills at all if i hadn't learned them early
[angie]: the point is, we're both impressive.
[Theodosia]: Thats fair
[angie]: actually, do you want to hear a new piece i'm working on? i need a second pair of ears.
[angie]: i'll call you. it'll be low-quality over the phone, but good enough.
-Call: 1 hr 49 min-
[Angie]: hey, is it all right if my friend thea comes home with me tomorrow? we have a school project.
[mom]: Yes, of course, as long as you stay quieter than Alex Jr.
[Angie]: that's not hard. anyway, it's not a particularly noise-intensive project.
[mom]: Good luck!
[jelly belly]: i have a friend coming over after school tomorrow. don't embarrass yourself.
[alex]: is she cute
[jelly belly]: i thought you were gay.
[alex]: i am. i meant for your own sake
[jelly belly]: ...i'm not gay, alex.
[alex]: when your first kiss is a girl don't blame me
[jelly belly]: i've had my first kiss. it didn't go very well. i would prefer not to relive it.
[alex]: with a girl??
[jelly belly]: no. with a boy. he was a bad kisser. the end.
[alex]: maybe your friend will be a better kisser
[jelly belly]: this conversation is over. please be nice to thea.
[Theo]: Can i go to my friend angie's house tomorrow after school?
[Dad]: sure. text me if you need a ride home.
Theo had never left school on a school bus before. "Dad doesn't like them," she explained as they got on. "He says they're too bumpy."
"He's right," Angie said, leading Theo most of the way to the back, "but when there are seven of you, that's not much of an option."
"So, is it true that there's a hierarchy for who gets to sit in back?" Theo asked.
"It can get pretty brutal," Angie replied. "By high school, though, everyone knows their place by instinct. This is as far back as I can go; anything behind is for seniors. In elementary school, they actually enforced it, but now it's just a social thing."
"I would imagine your dad's car has none of the same rules."
"No, not with two of us. There was a day when I graduated to the front seat, though."
"That day for me was when Philip went to college."
"Wait, really? You did it by age?"
"Yeah. But Philip got his license, and we got the kid car, so that gave me more opportunities. And now I can drive the kid car, too."
"How long before Alex Jr. gets his?"
"A couple of years. I'll be in college. We're well spaced-out as far as car ownership."
Theo grinned. "Another thing I don't have to worry about."
"Just one car. Dad works most of the time. I don't have my license yet, but when I do, I'll get free rein, pretty much." Theo grinned. "Look out, world. Theo's coming through."
"Oh, no," Angie said.
Theo opened her mouth to shoot off a response, but the bus stopped, and Angie stood up, bumping her leg against Theo's knee to get her to move. "Come on, this is our stop."
They followed Alex Jr., who had been up front in the freshman seats, off the bus.
"Who's this?" Alex asked.
"Alex, meet Thea. Thea, Alex."
Alex narrowed his eyes. "You're Theodosia Burr."
Angie sighed. "Don't tell Dad?"
With a shrug, Alex acquiesced. "If he doesn't figure it out for himself, I won't be the one to tell him."
"Thanks, AJ." Angie forged ahead. "Come on, Theo."
Walking into the Hamilton house was always an interesting experience, even when Alex Jr., Angie, Ellie, and Eliza were the only ones home. There were the baby toys strewn across the foyer (and sometimes the baby playing with them), the smell of whatever Eliza was making for dinner permeating the house, and the sheafs of paper spread across every possible surface.
"Those are Dad's," Angie said, pointing, "but sometimes JJ draws on them. So does Will, but his drawings are more of a nuisance, I think." She looked around. "I don't know where Mom is." Raising her voice, she called out, "Mom! We're here!"
Eliza's voice came back to them. "Good to know! Tell Thea I'm sorry it's a mess!"
"I don't care!" Theo called back, grinning. "I like your house," she told Angie, this time at a more reasonable volume.
"It's too much for me," Angie said. "Let's go to my room."
Angie loved her room. The walls were dark red; her dad always called it blood-red, but she preferred to think of it as the color of roses. It was her favorite color, anyway, and that hadn't changed since they had decorated. Her armchair, desk, keyboard, nightstand, bookshelf, and office chair were all crammed in around the bed, but the items on each surface were impeccably arranged.
She let Theo have the armchair, rolling the office chair up to the desk. "Okay. Are we using the Satan idea?"
"Yeah. I think they should have to get into that level, too, though."
Angie kicked her chair back and forth. "If you roll a one, you get into the level. If you roll anything else, you have to stay outside. If you roll a four or above once inside, you beat one head. Do that three times, you beat all of the heads. You have to roll a six to get back out."
"I don't like the assignment."
"Neither do I. Got any cardboard for the game board?"
Angie jumped up. "One good thing about a lot of siblings: there's always extra cardboard. Stay here."
"That's the end, I think," Theo said, gluing the last game piece together. "We didn't need JJ's ceramics after all."
Angie shrugged. "He'll probably make a bunch of game pieces, anyway, if I mention to him that we made a game. He's like that."
"What grade is he in?"
"Seventh. He's twelve."
"Seventh grade is the sweaty gym sock of life," Theo said.
Angie laughed. "It was pretty bad for me, and I've read Philip's poetry, but JJ seems to be doing all right."
"Does Philip know you've read his poetry?"
"Yeah. I mean, he doesn't take it seriously anymore. He showed it to me." Angie kicked at a desk drawer, opening and closing it with her foot. "It wasn't half bad, but the stuff he writes now is way better."
"It's been six years. I'd assume he'd have improved."
Angie felt her phone vibrate. She pulled it out, opening a new text from Philip.
[pippi]: So Alex Jr. says you have a *girl* over.
[Angel]: did you tell him i'm not gay?
"Who's that?" Theo asked.
"With his usual impeccable timing, Philip." Angie rolled her eyes at the screen. "He and Alex Jr. are convinced we're on a date."
[pippi]: I told him you were probably too deep in denial.
[Angel]: dear god.
[pippi]: I saw the way you looked at Aaron Burr's kid at Dad's last dinner.
"Seriously?" Theo grinned. "Can I see?"
[Angel]: well, i'm about to show "aaron burr's kid" these messages, so good luck explaining that one.
"Sure." Angie tossed Theo the phone.
"He's in your contacts as Pippi?"
"He had a major Pippi Longstocking phase. The names are similar enough."
Theo scrolled through the conversation. "I can't believe he saw you checking me out at that dinner. Do you think he saw me checking you out back?"
"I wasn't checking anybody out!" Angie protested.
[Angel]: Surprise, philip. It turns out i am actually extra gay for aaron burr's daughter. We're having a great time over here and you'll never get to know about any of it.
"Are you texting him?" Angie snatched her phone back.
Theo laughed. "Not at all."
"The texts reveal the truth."
[pippi]: That's not Angie. You never use caps.
[Angel]: well caught. that was theo being an idiot.
[pippi]: I don't know. Sounded pretty gay to me.
"For the record," Theo said, "I wouldn't mind if it were a date."
Angie stared at Theo for a full thirty seconds before she responded. "I-- I hadn't thought about that as a serious possibility."
Theo shrugged. "I'm bi. For the record. And you're cute. So, I mean, we can stay friends, assuming we are friends--"
"--or we can watch Netflix or something and call this a date."
Angie shrugged and looked down at her lap. "I've-- I've never really thought about dating. I haven't liked it much in the past, but that was with boys-- and, come to think of it, you are really cute-- we might as well go for it." She looked up at Theo. "Do you actually want to watch Netflix?"
"Sure," Theo said. "You can learn a lot about someone from their Netflix queue."
"Mine is shared with about nine other people. You can't learn much about me from it. What could I learn from your Netflix queue?"
Theo shrugged. "That I watch too much Star Trek. In my defense, it's pretty gay."
"Isn't it from the sixties?"
"The original series is, yeah, but two girls kiss, like, within the first two episodes or something."
"Yeah. Platonically, in theory, but we all know the truth."
Angie stood up, grabbing her laptop from her desk. "Move over and we can find out."
Theo compressed herself into half the chair, and Angie wedged herself in.
"Wouldn't this be easier if we were both on the bed or something?" Theo asked.
"That's less fun," Angie said. "If we're going to do this date thing, we might as well do it while sitting too close to each other." She looked up, shaking her hair behind her head so she could look at Theo's face. "Unless you're uncomfortable this way."
Theo shook her head. "Not if you aren't."
[Angel]: so you m i g h t have been right about the whole "gay for aaron burr's daughter" thing.
[Angel]: don't tell dad.
[pippi]: Wasn't planning on it.