"Jason, what do you think you're doing here? You're not invited to my party!"
I'd actually just been heading to the basement, which meant passing through the living room on my way, but now that she'd made an issue of it...
"Yeah, well I helped clean up for your party. And it's not just your house. I live here too!"
"Well it was all your mess anyway, and you're still not coming to my party!"
"WOULD THE TWO OF YOU PLEASE GROW UP," Mom yelled from the top of the stairs. "How old are you anyways, seven and four? Sharon, your brother's allowed to be anywhere in the house except your room and the master bedroom. You can't keep him out of the living room just because you're having a party."
"But, Moooommmm?!?! He can't come to my party!"
There was silence for a moment. Sharon glanced over at me, maybe uncertain if our mother had caved or not. Then Mom appeared at the railing where she could glare down at my sister. "You do want to have a party, don't you, Sharon?" Sharon opened her mouth, and then closed it again, finally recognizing a rhetorical question that really was best left unanswered. It took her brain all of another second to find a different attack route. She turned her back on Mom and rounded on me.
"Well, you can't be walking around, where my friends can see you, in those dorky clothes!"
"What's wrong with them? They're clean."
"They make you look like you're eleven or something," she screeched.
"Shaaaronnnnn – " Mom's low voice held a warning, but not a scolding. Yet.
I looked down. I had on a pair of khaki pants and a striped knit shirt. "Well, what am I supposed to wear?"
"Like what? I don't know what else to wear," which was true; unlike most times, I wasn't just being a dick to annoy her.
Sharon face turned almost purple with frustration, and she grunted out some squeezed, tortured sound. Then she reached out and grabbed my wrist and started pulling me after her as she charged up the stairs, past Mom, and up the next flight to our bedrooms. I managed to shake myself free from her grip somewhere along the way, but let myself be sucked along in her wake. Once we were in my bedroom, she threw open my closet door.
"God, you've got to stop letting Mom buy your clothes," she said, totally dismissively. "What's your newest pair of pants?"
I pointed to some jeans Mom had gotten me at K-mart a couple of months ago. Sharon pulled them down off their hanger, her nose wrinkled in disgust, and then held them up to my waist. "Well, at least they're a little longer. You do realize that those things you have on now are a pair of waders, don't you?"
"You've grown, little brother. Your pencil-thin legs stick out a mile below the cuffs, like you're all ready to wade across a fucking stream."
I looked down at the jeans, and then at my khakis. The jeans were longer than the khakis.
"Now, what about a shirt?"
"They're all in my dresser," I told her.
In another moment, she was pawing through the pile of folded shirt in my second drawer. "No, no, no, no, no! Don't you have any real t-shirts that fit? None of this knit shirt crap. That's for little boys. It's not even for little boys; it's for little boys whose mothers dress them funny. God!"
"I could wear my STYX concert t-shirt," I said, proudly pointing.
The look she gave me could have curdled milk. "The whole point here is to make it so you don't look like my fifteen-year-old dorky brother."
But I am your fifteen-year-old dorky brother...
She sighed and went back to my closet, pulling out a couple of dress shirts. "Here, put this one on," she said, thrusting a white shirt into my arms. She stood there, arms akimbo, waiting for me to get half-naked in front of her! When she didn't stop staring, I turned my back on her, and took the knit shirt off my pale body, and put on the dress shirt.
Turning back, as I buttoned the cuff buttons, I frowned at her. I hated wearing dress shirts.
"No, no, no, that's way too small for you." She turned her face vaguely towards the door. " MOM?– JASON NEEDS NEW CLOTHES. I'M TAKING HIM SHOPPING TOMORROW. I CAN'T HAVE MY BROTHER DRESSED LIKE A DORK! I HOPE YOU HAVE MONEY..." Then she turned back to me. "How about a sweater?"
Our Aunt Caroline had given me a sweater for my birthday, just a month before, and I pulled it out of my third drawer. Sharon made a non-committal face, then told me to put it on. "No, not over your dress shirt. Idiot. Take that thing off and put your stupid knit shirt back on first. God."
I turned my back on her and complied. Turning back around, she frowned. "Well, put on the jeans, and a pair of white socks, and you might be okay. Oh, and brush your hair and your teeth before anyone gets here!"
And with that, she stalked out.
My darling sister's eighteenth birthday party started at eight that night. It was her senior year of high school, and it was a Friday, and she'd met enough people to actually invite over, and so she'd been granted permission for a party. I honestly could only remember one other party she'd ever hosted, and that was about three years and three schools before. I really didn't try to hang out at her party too much. I had some of the food and some soda. I spent some time up in my bedroom reading a book. And I watched "Soap" from 9:30-10:00, though I could hardly hear over the sound of the stereo coming from the living room. Mom even let me move the TV into the kitchen to listen, which helped a little.
After "Soap", I grabbed another ginger ale and went down to the living room, taking a place on an empty chair. Sharon actually seemed to have thrown a pretty good party, as a lot of people were dancing, and there were people grouped around each of the two white couches talking and looking happy. It made me just a touch morose to see that Sharon had made more friends in just a couple of months here than I'd ever made in my life. But I tried not to dwell on thoughts like that. I just sat, kind of off to the side of everything, trying not to be a dork. I watched as people danced to "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing", and Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit". Of course, they were all Seniors, and about my sister's age, eighteen or so, and they wouldn't give the time of day to a kid who'd just turned fifteen, but I was enjoying watching some of the better looking girls. Women, actually. A couple of them had pretty short skirts, and long legs, and from my seated vantage point, the view was pretty nice.
"Why aren't you dancing?"
It took me a second to realize that had been addressed to me. I turned my head to see Heather, dressed in tight jeans and a fuzzy sweater with a cowl neck. The front of the sweater swelled out wonderfully around her large breasts. Her honey blonde hair was in ringlets down to her shoulders. Her face and her blue eyes were just ... perfect.
"Um, I've never danced. I don't know how," I managed to stammer out.
"Oh, it's easy! Get up and I'll show you how." She smiled. At me. I got up.
"The Boys Are Back In Town" was just starting up on the stereo – not my favorite song. But...
She started to move to the music, and for a moment I just stood there feeling very awkward. I glanced around, afraid I might find Sharon looking at me. If she noticed, I was pretty sure she'd eviscerate me later for talking with her best friend. When our family moved here just before the start of the school year, we knew nobody here at all. But, just as she always does, when Sharon got home from the first day of school, she announced that she'd made a friend. Every time we moved anywhere, she'd always make a friend for life on the first day of school. I'm not exaggerating here – even as an adult, she still corresponds with those girls she befriended right off the bat, at each place we lived. She has BFFs on three continents, and her friends (who have, of course, never met each other) even email and Skype each other to this day. It's like a cult. The Cult of Sharon.
My sister was somehow like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. With me, or my mother, she was a screeching, angry hag. With Dad, she could be sweet and nice, though it always seemed a bit calculated to me. But away from us, she was apparently some kind of Super Wonder Sharon. Her teachers adored her and praised her to the heavens. Her classmates all admired her. And everywhere we lived, she always had one or two really, really close friends who would do anything for her. And here I was, messing with her current BFF.
Only I wasn't messing with her friend. I wasn't really doing anything except standing there as the music played.
"You've got to move to the beat," Heather told me. She demonstrated, and I tried to copy her. I probably should have been watching one of the guys who were dancing, instead of learning to dance by mimicking a girl, but, well, I was enjoying watching Heather. After a few minutes, she leaned in towards me and said, "There you go, you're doing fine!" Then she flashed me another smile, and my mouth grew very dry, even as I tried to smile back.
.... There is more of this story ...