Comparisons

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Anywhere but here.

Those three words echoed in my head as I sat in the booth at the restaurant. I had learned long ago not to give a shit about the stares or snide comments people thought I couldn’t hear from behind my back. From my hair that was shaved around the sides and back with the top a neon green that I styled to the right and down to my shoulder, to my all black make up of heavy eye shadow and lipstick, my piercings that consisted of five in each ear, chin, tongue, belly button, a hoop in my nose; and those are the ones people could see, or the myriad of tattoos I have up and down my arms, back, neck chest – my body was a canvas and a work of art – to how I dressed; either a tank top or t shirt that exposed my midriff and shredded pants or if I’m going to a party a black leather bra, matching mini skirt, fishnet stockings, and my studded leather jacket, both worn with my mid shin combat boots. Even that last outfit can’t cause much commotion as I’m barely a B cup and that’s only if I push my chest out and hold my breath. I’ve heard it all.

But what was truly pissing me off was my Mother constantly apologizing for the way I looked to Bill Tasker, the slightly balding, slightly rounding, slightly more everything middle-aged man she married at city hall yesterday and his son, Alex… And it’s not as if I haven’t met Bill already, either. He knew what he was getting when he married my Mom. Today was for us “kids” to get acquainted in a public setting before us “girls” moved into Bill’s home.

“Jesus Christ, Mom,” I couldn’t help but to show my disdain with a huff. “Lay off.”

“Now Nicole, remember you promised,” My Mom patted my leg in dismissal of my reaction. “Sorry again, Bill, Alex; she just has one of those attitudes.”

I just stared at my Mom incredulously. Attitude? Those five words were all that I spoke during the entirety of dinner and only because she kept harping on the differences between me and Alex. I didn’t even use a curse word.

“That’s all right, Patty,” Bill smiled. “She’ll grow out of it eventually. Now as I was saying, Alex here is third in his class at Hilldale High School, captain of the debate team, and has a scholarship lined up for him at State University after he graduates. He even tutors people as a part-time job. Maybe some of him will rub off on her with all of us living together now?”

There it is again. The comparison of me to that Mr. Goodie Two-Shoes with glasses… and again I don’t measure up. Sure, I dropped out of school, and he’s graduating. Sure, I’m nineteen and still living at home, and he’s eighteen and going off to college in a few months. Sure, he has a car and I ride a sport bike; or crotch thingy as my Mom calls it. So I don’t look, act, or listen to the same music society deems “normal” and he looks and acts like the wet dream of every parent in the world. He didn’t even drip barbecue sauce on his polo shirt. I swear I have never seen such a clean cut kid in my life.

Despite all that my Mom hates about me, I do have a successful job as a piercing specialist at Needles, a tattoo parlor downtown, and I would have moved into an apartment already if my Asshole ex boyfriend hadn’t drained my banking account when he broke up with me. According to my Mom, he was just another horrible decision of mine in a long line of failures. Fuck this. I just rolled my eyes and stared out the window.

*

“Why can’t you be more like Alex?”

I was at my breaking point. A month of being compared to the Superstar and I finally snapped. “I’ve fucking had it!” I screamed as I stormed out of the kitchen. I was nineteen and getting reprimanded for being out “too late” and then my Mom had the audacity to throw that sentiment in my face. Again. Be like Alex? The only teenager I’ve ever heard of that doesn’t go out – at all. “Do you even have friends?” I kicked at his bedroom door before slamming my own, leaving a thunderous echo in my wake.

It just wasn’t fair. If that fucking Asshole wouldn’t have stolen my money then I wouldn’t even be dealing with this shit. As it looks now, I have another year and a half before I have enough saved up for the security deposit, first months rent, first months utilities, first months everything; and thats at some fleabag place. I didn’t care; a toxic dump would be better than the garbage I have to go through here. I’m lucky Alex wants the full college experience and is getting a dorm room even though State University is so close because a year and a half would be impossible to manage. Could I really make it until he leaves for college in six months? With my sanity that is?

No. Something had to be done. Either I was going to have to change my ways – fuck that nonsense – or Alex would have to change his… Wait? Could it be that simple? A smile percolated my lips as I wasn’t sure, but I was damn well going to try.

*

Was I nervous? Excited? Probably both as I stood at Alex’s bedroom door; and yet I still didn’t know how I was going to get Alex to come to the party – have I mentioned he never goes anywhere? casino siteleri So much so, I had to walk to the bathroom and wash my clammy hands before going back to his bedroom door.

It was Friday night and normally I wouldn’t have even come home after work and just hopped on my black, with light blue trim Kawasaki Ninja 636 ZX6R Super bike and go straight to the triplets house, but today was the first day of the rest of my life. I stood at the door still wondering what I was going to say. “Fuck it,” I mumbled as I realized if I didn’t get my ass moving, parking would be a bitch. My hand quickly knocked on the wood.

“Come in.”

Wow, not a “who the fuck is it?” or “what the fuck do you want?” Maybe I should try the cordial approach? Nah. The only reason people knock on my door is to complain.

I opened the door to see Alex doing homework at his desk. At least he was still dressed, albeit in a blue polo shirt and khakis. “I’m heading to a party; wanna come?”

Alex quickly turned in his office chair and stood, “Sure.”

“I mean, you might find it fun. You need to get out of the house sometimes or you’ll go nuts. You should really think about coming.”

Alex chuckled, “Okay, you talked me into it… again.”

“All right, Alex,” I put my hands on my hips. “Why don’t you want to go, huh? Embarrassed you won’t fit in or just embarrassed by me?” I was doing my best to keep my voice tempered as so to not wake our parents, but it wasn’t easy.

Alex put his hand on my shoulder and stared me right in the eye with a curious smile. Kind of cute in a puppy dog kind of way. “I said I’d love to go to a party with you,” he snickered as he walked into the hallway, slightly pulling my arm as he did. “You do know not everybody in this household fights with you, right?”

I stood momentarily stunned. Alex had said yes… and he was right about him not fighting with me, although we never really talked, either. I composed myself quickly and took the lead down the hallway, my destination – my motorcycle, “Come on and hold on tight.”

*

I found a spot on the sidewalk of the upscale home, a perk to driving a motorcycle. “All right; we’re here,” I took off my helmet and took stock of Alex as he took off his. “You handled that really well. At least you’re not crying.”

Alex looked at me with an entertained expression and I instantly knew he wanted clarification. It felt odd having someone take a keen interest in what I was saying. Who knew? “With one of my exes, the first time he rode with me, he ended up crying.”

Side note: if a guy you’re dating can’t handle the speed in which you make hairpin turns, it’ll only go bad for you… But Alex just laughed it off, and I was doing far more to try to make him uncomfortable.

“Well, I thought it was awesome. That’s a nice bike; I really like that color of blue, as well… and you handle it like a pro rider.”

I was disappointed with his opinion as that was not what I was trying to accomplish, but the night was young.

*

A party at the triplets home is always a raucous affair. Their Dad, a drummer that went by the name Machete, was rarely home, as his band tours constantly, but their Mom was more than willing to let their home be the hot spot on Friday nights. The only rule was no drinking and driving, and she made sure of it as she was the bartender of the open bar. The music was loud, the pool filled, and the alcohol was already flowing when I led Alex to the line at the bar.

I scanned the area and found our hosts… you just can’t miss the three guys with the tallest mohawks in the yard let alone the hazy cloud of smoke coming from the table on the patio. “I’ll be over there,” I declared over my shoulder.

“Wait,” Alex spoke with urgency.

I inwardly smiled. Tonight was going to be fun. “What?” I turned around with a combative tone. “Can’t get a drink by yourself? Need me to hold your hand and walk you to the patio?”

“You sure are something else; you know that?” Alex smiled an amused smile and I suddenly felt like I was his personal joke.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” My hands went to my hips ready for the altercation.

Alex just laughed, “How are you going to bring me to a party, show me to the bar, leave, and not tell me what you want to drink?”

“Oh.” My hands fell to my sides with the truth of his words. Somehow, Alex knew how to how to handle my fiery side. I played it off dismissively and turned back around, calling out over my shoulder, “I’ll have a beer and the bartenders name is June.”

I made my way through the sea of people to the tall blue, orange, and purple mohawks. They even dressed the same in leather pants, leather vests, and not a single shirt among them. They were also sitting with John and Kevin, two guys, one with long black hair while the other looked like an anime character with spikes everywhere, who would do any stunt just for a laugh. I pulled out my phone to send a quick text.

“Sup, Nikki,” the triplets seemed to speak in unison.

I stuffed slot oyna my phone back into my jacket, “Hey guys, just to let you know I brought a guy to the party.” I gave a sinister smile, ” I was hoping you guys will show him a good time.”

It was obvious they knew what I meant when they all looked behind me and laughed. Just like the mohawks give the triplets away, so does Alex’s polo shirt and khakis give him away. He sticks out like a sore thumb.

“Alex, I’d like you to meet from oldest to youngest, by only a few minutes each, Axe, Hatchet, and Hacksaw, while these other two degenerates are John and Kevin.”

“Here you go,” Alex handed me my beer and then leaned into my ear, “and thanks for telling me the bartenders name and that she hates being called that.” Alex then greeted the triplets. “Great party, guys. I just met Scythe, but honestly, her name should have been Cleaver.”

Everybody stared at Alex. Was that supposed to be a joke? If the music wasn’t so loud, I’d swear I would be hearing crickets.

“Ah, I guess that one was a little before everyone’s time.”

Before our time? When he’s the youngest person here? I then noticed what Alex was holding, “Are you drinking vodka?”

Alex just gave a small salute of acknowledgment with the cup before taking a drink.

“About time you got here,” my best friend, Tia, who looked good in her ripped up t shirt and jeans, came from behind me and bumped at my arm, her long pink hair brushing across my face. “You need to see what Norah’s doing; come on.”

This is exactly what I wanted when I texted her to come get me at the triplets table. These boys are going to eat Alex alive. “All right, Alex, I’ll be back later.”

“Why don’t you sit down, Alex,” Kevin kicked a seat from under the table to push it out.

I raised my beer in mock salute back at Alex, “See ya.”

*

It was an odd sight. Every time I glanced over at the guys table, I got the exact emotion I desired from my friends there – laughter. However, I also saw the most unexpected emotion from Alex – also laughter. Did he not understand he was the butt of their jokes? I thought he was smarter than that. But what surprised me most was when a joint started being passed – and Alex took a hit. If only our parents could see him now? Already on his fourth cup of vodka and smoking as if it was as natural as breathing. My curiosity overwhelmed me and with more speed in my step than perhaps ever before, I approached the table. Everyone was laughing hysterically, just as Alex took another hit.

I took the joint an inhaled before passing it left, “Hey guys, what’s going on?”

Hatchet slapped at the table, “Nikki, you have got to bring Alex by more often!”

“Yeah,” John was nearly grabbing at his sides with how hard he was laughing. “This guys great.”

“What?” I couldn’t help the surprise in my voice.

“Alex, man,” Hacksaw shook his head with the widest smile I’ve ever seen, “We do this every Friday; hell, you need to come by more often.”

“Fuck just Fridays,” Axe added, who rarely spoke, but when he did, his words were the most prominent, making him the final arbiter in any dispute among the trio. “Come any time… Hell, you need to meet our Dad.”

Now that was an invitation I had never received. My jaw just fell to the floor.

Alex nodded, “Keep throwing parties like these, how can I resist?”

“That’s it… We’re doing shots.” I grabbed Alex by the arm and pulled.

“Well, gotta go, guys,” Alex stood, proving just how ineffective my pulling was. “The lady calls.”

“Hey, man,” Kevin nodded. “Catch ya later.”

I pulled Alex to the bar, bypassing the small line, “Scythe, we’re doing shots. Make mine whiskey.”

“There’s a line, use it.” Scythe didn’t even glance my way, “Another beer, Hailey?”

“Please.”

“Hey, Mrs. Cleaver,” Alex smiled his manipulative smile.

Scythe immediately snickered, shaking her head, “That will never get old.”

Alex’s eyes darted in my direction, “She gets it.” He then looked back at Scythe, “Just take care of us after George. That’s where’d we be in line, if that’s okay with you?”

How in the hell does he know these people’s names? Sure, as guests came in, they went to the triplets table, but Alex says their names like he’s best friends with everyone… I’m seriously getting pissed.

Scythe handed Hailey a beer, “You got it, Alex. And what do you want, Erica?”

Erica pointed toward me, “I actually wanna see this.”

“Any objections?” Scythe called out. The answer was that the line suddenly curved around Alex and I. “All right, here we go.”

“I was wondering where you ran off to.” Tia then eyed my suspiciously, “What’re you doing?”

“Shots. Vodka for Alex and Whiskey for me.” I stared down Alex.

“Whiskey?” Tia went wide-eyed. “You know you can’t handle whiskey.”

“I know what I’m doing.” I do. At least, I think I do. I can handle vodka even less than whiskey, but I need something to make it look good when I drink him under the table. canlı casino siteleri I’ve only had beer and Alex has already had four cups of vodka. I can do this.

Alex gave me a compassionate look, and it nearly melted my resolve. “I don’t recommend this if you can’t handle it.”

“Line them up,” I demanded.

“And how will you get home, Nikki?” Scythe asked as she poured.

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Cleaver. I’ll see to it that she gets home safely.”

I took a breath, now more determined than ever. The nerve of Alex assuming he’s going to beat me. Not only that, Scythe just accepted it as truth… And who the fuck is Mrs. Cleaver? I grabbed my first shot in indignation and downed it easily. “That’s one,” I stared down Alex.

“Okay,” Alex tilted his head as he grabbed his shot glass. “I tried to warn you.” He chugged it down effortlessly.

I grabbed my second one, certain this wasn’t going to take long.

*

“Fuck,” I cringed at my raging headache.

“Oh good, you’re awake.”

I yawned before squeaking open my right eye to a blur that I’m pretty sure was Alex, and even that was a chore. Good news was, I was in my own bed… Bad news was, I have no idea how I got here. “What the fuck happened.”

“You passed out after the seventh shot, but I’m surprised you made it that far. After shot three, you were on pure determination.” Alex handed me a couple aspirin and a bottle of water, “Here, take these.”

“Aren’t you ever going to get out of bed, Nicole? It’s nearly two-thirty.” My Mom ducked her head in my room. “Alex,” somehow my Mom’s voice perked up at seeing him, “I didn’t know you were in here. Let this be a lesson to you; this is what happens when you start drinking.”

“Actually, Patty,” Alex smiled at her. “This one’s on me. Nikki and I went to a restaurant I like last night after she got off work. The food was kind of spicy and isn’t sitting well with her stomach.”

“Aw… Well, way to help out a fellow member of this family. Nicole, you can learn from that, and make sure you tell Alex thank you for taking such good care of you.” My Mom smiled affectionately at Alex before whistling down the hallway. He actually put her in such a good mood she started fucking whistling.

I rolled my eyes before doing my best to focus on Alex, “There going to find out, you know.”

“Find out what?” Alex took the water bottle from me and put a nice, cool, damp wash cloth on my forehead.

“You’re little game. The fact you drink and smoke, they’re going to find out. At least I’m honest about what I do. You hide it.”

“I didn’t smoke,” Alex chuckled. “And the only thing I drank last night was water.”

“What? But I saw…” I cringed at the pain that crept to forefront as I was about to argue.

“June is a lovely woman and cares about everyone that comes to her home, especially when she could get in trouble if they drink and drive. So, I told her I was a designated driver, but I didn’t want to look lame in front of everyone. I then asked if she could give me water every time I ordered a vodka, and I’d be grateful. She was more than happy to comply. As for the smoking, I puffed and released. I didn’t inhale.” My eyes followed his hand as he set the water bottle on my nightstand. There was a flower sitting on it. A yellow, fuck if I now what type it was, flower. “You should get some rest, Nikki.” He leaned down and sweetly kissed my forehead, just above the top of the wash cloth before standing. “I’ll be back to check on you later.”

“You know,” I smiled at Alex for perhaps first time. “I’m not really a flower kind of girl.”

Alex shrugged, “It was a more personal way of thanking you for inviting me last night. I had a blast. Now get some rest.” He walked to the door and started to shut it, “And Nikki?”

“Yeah?”

“You have a lovely smile.”

The door shut before I could respond, but I am also unsure what I would have said. It was the first time anybody has complimented me on anything about me.

*

My eyes squinted open and a small smile percolated my lips. My headache was gone. As I tip toed across the hallway and to the bathroom, I could hear the television from downstairs. I was determined to be quiet, as I really didn’t want to face My Mom right now. After I was done relieving myself, it truly dawned on me the lateness of the day. Darkness had already settled across the sky.

“Shit.”

I was really late for work. I dashed back across the hall and to my phone on the nightstand. I quickly pulled up my contacts and pressed the call button for Tim, my boss and the owner of Needles.

“How ya feeling, Nikki?”

“Huh?” I was confused at his knowledge. “How’d you…”

“Got a call earlier from some guy named Alex. Said you weren’t doing so well. I figured it must be pretty serious if he was calling because he had to ask if you were scheduled to work tonight first.”

“Oh, I’m doing a little better. Especially since Alex called you. I thought I was fucked when I saw the time.”

“He’s a good guy, maybe you should keep this one around awhile,” Tim chuckled, always teasing me about how quick my relationships last, though he didn’t realize Alex was my step brother. “Listen, I gotta go. Get better and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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