Chapter 4

Saturday morning brought weekend chores and my mother's cheery morning person personality to the forefront. My father, wisely I might add, usually had Sunday off and so missed out on Saturday chores where all manner of things would happen. Like the garage that needed cleaning out, for starters.

"Mom, what IS this?" I asked as I held up some foreign object.

"Oh, your father loves that thing, put it over there," she mumbled as I carried the object to a new resting place.

"Honey all these boxes of Christmas lights your father is saving to fix? Throw those out on the curb, please," my mother said as I passed the mounds of green coiled wire intertwined and terminating in brightly colored lights. These were old sets, the kind where one bulb goes out and they all go out. My dad has been saying he would fix them for as many Christmases as I can remember, and if I am not mistaken this will be the third year mom has told me to throw them out. What she didn't know was that my father paid me off ahead of time to save certain things from her axe.

"Do you have plans for tonight?" my mother asked as she began stacking and separating old cans of paint that were used to touch up rooms or an outside portion of the house.

"Not much at the moment," I replied.

"Karla called a few times," she mentioned.

"Nothing unusual for her," I said while returning from carrying a bag to the curb.

"Karla says you have a new friend," she remarked.

"Karla has a big mouth," I replied as I opened a box that contained the worlds largest collection of aluminum pie tins my father had been saving. Dad is the pack rats' pack rat. I swear he saves crap on general principle, as if anyone would have a use for a pie tin!

"Well, she is a great source of information when your own child doesn't tell you anything about his life," she remarked.

"That's because number one, your child likes some privacy which is completely normal, I might add, and number two, why should I say anything when my so called friends tell you what you want to know?"

"Well, who is this friend? I'm concerned, maybe he wants to sell you into white slavery!" she grinned while marking a few boxes for the trash heap.

"I should be so lucky!" I chortled as I grabbed a box of old shoes and prepared to make my way to the scrap heap with them. The city comes around once or twice a year to do a big pick up, and that's when we usually do this garage thing. Thankfully it only happens once or twice a year!

"Oh, come on, I just want some general information!" she laughed. I was going to kill Karla, I swear talking to my mom behind my back was so uncool.

"It's no big deal, mom, he's just a friend," I mumbled as I struggled with the ungainly box. Shoes don't balance well, one atop the other.

"Well, it's a he? Karla didn't mention one way or the other. So what's his name?" she asked in a little sing song voice like she was a school girl prying for information. Well, she was prying, exactly why, I wasn't sure.

"Mom! This is so silly, what is the big deal?" I asked while dropping the box with it's trash mates.

"I want to know, come on, what's his name?" she wheedled.

"Wes, mom, his name is Wes!" I groaned.

"Is this the Wes that pulled your car out of the mud last week?" she asked with an innocent face and the accuracy of a marksman.

"Yes, mom, the same. We even hung out together a little while over the past week or so," I made motions with my hands to indicate the mock importance of all of that. Actually, Wes was quite cool, even though is dad was a bit of a stooge. He was like this mother hen, and I think I made a semi-bad impression on him by getting my car stuck in the mud, like I was dangerous to his kid or something.

"Well, is Wes nice?" she asked, prying just a little more.

"Yes, mother, he's nice, you'd like him," I said as I hefted a box of mismatched plates and bowls. Dad says he'd like to start his own diner one day, and he figures if he keeps saving plates and bowls eventually he'll have enough of one type to at least have that expense covered.

"Is he cute?" this was accentuated by the crashing sound of heavy, diner style plates splintering and shattering inside the box as it met violently with the ground.

"What?" I asked, unbelieving.

"Erik, are you all right? Honey that was heavy, did you hurt yourself?" she asked with concern.

"I'm fine, no problem," I said in a rush, "What did you say?"

"I asked if he was cute, you know, something for me to look at besides Toby," she said while laughing and I looked at her in disbelief.

"Mom! You're not supposed to look at my friends!" I nearly howled in the near panic of thinking she knew, and near revulsion in what she was now saying.

"Why not? Haven't you ever heard of older women and younger men? Mrs. Robinson isn't just a song you know!" she laughed again at my discomfort while grabbing the broom and dustpan for the splinters that had escaped the cardboard confines of their prison.


"Come on, is he cute?" she asked and then lowered her voice as she drew near to me, "is he `the one'?"

"What exactly did Karla tell you?" I asked with gritted teeth.

"Nothing, sweetheart, just happened to call for you this morning and said you guys might want to hang out at her place tonight," she smiled at me devilishly, "see, the thing is, she usually says that you'll hang out with Toby and herself, but not this time."

"So what's with the cute stuff?" I asked with slitted eyes and pounding pulse.

"Well, he called three times already, and I finally pried it out of him that he wanted to ask if you were going to join Karla and Toby, and if I am not mistaken, he sounded far too shy to fit with your other friends. I think he also wanted to make sure you'd be there so that he wasn't left alone with Karla, and I can't say that I blame him on that score. Put that together with your lack of dating and your unwillingness to come clean about him to begin with, well, a mother knows," she shrugged her shoulders as if to say that was that. She began to walk away with the broom and dustpan when my mouth, traitorous as it is, decided now was a good time for a revelation.

"Toby and Karla think I'm gay," I said softly, standing over the split box with the shards of ceramic plates poking from its ruined confines. My mother stopped on her way to the garbage can and half turned to look at me.

"Are you?" she asked tenderly.

"I don't really know for sure. I was never really into anyone before, except maybe Toby a bit," I looked down at the broken box, "I guess that kind of answers that though, huh?"

"Oh, honey, that doesn't even make you special. You still have to get up in the morning and put on clothes and do the daily tasks your mother lays out for you," she smiled.

"You make it sound easy," I said to the floor.

"It's not, but the reality is that no matter who you love you still have to go through daily life. Being gay isn't the end of the world, it's just a part of who you are."

"So I guess you're ok with this then?" I asked with my eyes a little moist.

"Of course, and let me tell you, if you think your father and I didn't have a clue, you should re-evaluate your parents," she laughed.

"What do you mean?" I asked, sensing I was about to get poked fun at again.

"Well, we privately figured that Toby was the object of your affections, I mean, Karla loves to tweak your nose, but you always talk about or look at Toby. I swear the poor boy has to be blind to not see some of the looks you gave him!" she chuckled as she walked to the large garbage can we kept in the garage and dragged it back to the mess I made.

"Clean this mess up Casanova, then go call Karla before she has a coronary," she laughed again at her joke and walked away to sweep the rest of the garage out. I watched her retreating profile and wondered how I had missed all she said I did. How did I miss them catching it and I never knew?

"Hey mom!" I called out and jogged over to her before encircling her in my arms, "thanks."

"Seven o'clock we'll meet at the mall, hit Friendly's then the video place before we crash here, cool?" Karla asked.

"Yeah, let me clear it all with mom first, but I think it's all good," I replied.

"Oh, and you need to stop and get Wes on the way," Karla giggled.

"What's so funny?" I growled at her.

"Well," she hesitated, "don't be mad, I just think you guys are cute together."

"Oh do you now?" I smiled and rolled my eyes.

"Yes, I do. I think you look better with him than you do with Toby. Besides, he isn't quite housetrained even," she laughed.

"Karla...I like Wes," I said quietly.

"I do too, he's pretty quiet, but I think there is a lot going on behind those pretty eyes of his," she replied.

"Karla, I said, I like Wes."

"I thought we just covered that?" she said, I am sure intentionally playing dumb.

"Why are you making this difficult?" I asked her.

"Because, you have made it difficult on us!" she replied cheerily.

"Karla?" I said sweetly.

"Yes, Erik?" she asked just as sweetly.

"Don't ever talk to my mother again," I said as I hung up the phone. Now that ought to piss her off.

I showered and lounged in my room for a bit trying to come to grips with myself.

"I'm gay, interested sexually in men, a homosexual," I said to the room at large. The room remained silent to this revelation. The thought unnerved me a bit, all the insults you got called at school, mostly just teasing, but faggot or queer was pretty common as insults go. Saying it out loud in the empty room seemed to solidify the facts and take the edge from my uneasiness, but made it somehow more real. I guess when I came down to it, I was uncomfortable with just being different from so many people. The vast majority are straight, so I guess this must be how other minorities feel?

I leaned back in my beanbag and stared at the spackled ceiling while trying to empty my head. About twenty minutes later the phone rang again, this time Toby.

"Dog!" he said enthusiastically.

"Puppy chow!" I said back.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot I was trying to break myself of that, but I am so excited!" he said, truly sounding bubbly.

"About what?" I laughed.

"Well, Karla just called and if she was any happier she'd be twins!" he laughed.

"That's it, Karla isn't allowed to talk to anyone anymore!" I said.

"Oh, come on! It's great news!" he laughed, an infectious sound for sure.

"Why?' I asked, deciding to forgo playing dumb.

"Because you can finally relax and be you! Shit you can go boy watching or something now!" he laughed.

"Oh yeah, you want to go with me?" I asked surprising myself at my bold statement.

"Sure, dude, I'll go wherever and whenever. I think it'll be fun to see you relax for once."

"You say that like am always uptight or something!" I whined.

"Well, you used to go nuts and clam up when we'd talk about this before, but I guess Wes had some kind of effect on you cause you are a totally different guy than the one I knew last week," he said seriously.

"I'm...not completely comfortable with it, but I'm trying," I said slowly.

"That's cool, Erik, that's really cool. We'll be there for you, man, so don't stress so hard."

"It's all so new," I said while standing up and pacing to my window, "I am really...I dunno, nervous about the whole thing. I mean, I am so totally surprised at how calm I am right now, or even when I talked to my mom I didn't, like, freak or anything. I was shocked, yeah, broke a few plates but I didn't freak out."

"That's great though, it must mean you're comfortable with us and trust us at least as much as you trust yourself since you just let yourself say it out loud, in fact I'll bet you just really said it out loud to yourself today."

"How the hell did you know that!" I said incredulous.

"I know you, buddy, that's how," he could be heard smiling on the phone, I was sure of it. He was like the Cheshire cat for crying out loud.

"Sounds like you keep a file on me!" I complained.

"Vee haff vays of getting vhat ve vant, Herr Anders," he replied with a phony German accent, "Vee know your darkest zeecrets!" he started to laugh and I couldn't help but join him.

"You're insane!" I told him through the laughter.

"I am indeed, I have to be to be around you and Karla!" he snickered.

"I have to go, I gotta pick Wes up," I said while still chuckling at him and his antics.

I dressed nervously in front of my mirror, trying to find something that I thought would flatter my body. Jesus, it'd be easier to flatter `Fat Bastard's' body, you know the guy from Austin Powers? I settled on jeans and a white button up shirt. Next, of course, was the hair which actually looked all right. OK, no more delaying it, time to go to Wes's. I shot down the stairs and almost made the front door before my mother called out to halt in my tracks. I turned slowly and headed into the living room where she sat, feet propped on an ottoman.

"Not even saying goodnight?" she asked.

"Um, well, sorry," I replied as I leaned down to give her a hug and kiss.

"You have enough money?" she asked and I grinned, "I know, never enough, right?" she laughed as she handed me two twenties folded within each other.

"Thanks mom, for everything."

"Go, have fun, let me know if you guys are staying at Karla's or something."

I walked out and started the car, backing out of the driveway with a mad grin on my face, I'm pretty sure. I stopped briefly to put a few bucks worth of gas in the car and then headed over to Wes's house. His father was just climbing out of the truck as I pulled up and I waved to him.

"Hey Mr. Schraeder," I called out.

"Hi Erik, you guys got plans or something?" he asked, eyes somewhat narrowed in my direction.

"Yeah, Friendly's and then the video store before we crash at Karla's," I replied.

"Good deal," he remarked with something less than genuine good nature in his voice, "You guys won't be drinking, will you?" he asked squinting at me.

"No, Karla's folks will be home," I replied a little put off at the questioning.

"I'd like the number where you'll be at before you go, all right?" he told me and I nodded in agreement. I mounted the steps as he did and entered the laundry room where I kicked off my shoes, as was custom in this house.

"Oh, Erik, nice to have you here again, would you like a snack? Wes is still getting ready," gram asked me.

"Actually, Gram, we are going out to eat," I replied.

"Hi Erik, who's going?"

"Hey Mrs. Schraeder, just Toby, Karla and the two of us," I replied.

"It's been a long time since we went out, we should go sometime," Gram said loudly as a hint to Wes's grandfather I'm sure.

"Ok, I'm ready!" Wes announced as he stepped into the kitchen.

"Jesus, Wes, it's just Friendly's!" was all I could say. He was dressed all in black and it fit him very nicely indeed. He smiled a small, sheepish smile.

"I just want to look good for your friends," he replied, "don't want to be sent to a different table or something," he grinned.

"Here," Mr. Schraeder grunted as he placed a scrap of paper and a pencil in front of me, "which Friendly's are you going to?" he asked.

"William, leave them alone! You worry too much!" Gram scolded.

"No I don't, I worry just the right amount!" he growled back while pushing the paper and pencil at me. I took it and wrote down Karla's number and Gram took it from me, planting it into her apron pocket.

"I have it, if necessary, maybe you could give us a call when you get to her house so William doesn't give himself an ulcer worrying about his only son," she muttered.

"Sure, no problem," I said uncertainly.

"You could call from the restaurant too," Mr. Schraeder began before Gram cut him off.

"You two better go, have fun, and don't mind him for crying out loud, he'll want fingerprints and blood samples next!" she said loudly while pushing us towards the back door and straightening Wes's shirt at the last minute, and I was pretty sure tucking a bill into his shirt pocket, before pushing us onto the back porch and closing the door on us.

"Wow, your dad's pretty protective, huh?" I asked.

"Yeah, you could say that," he forced a grin while sitting to put on his shoes, "Gram says he was always a worrier though. It gets old, I don't go out too much because of it." I sat to put on my shoes as well, lost in thought for a moment.

"Is that how come you and Toby stopped hanging around?" I asked.

"Well, sorta. See, Toby used to be kinda out there, I don't know how he is now really, but he was sort of wild," he laughed, a sad sound, "at least by my fathers standards."

"He stopped you guys from hanging out?' I asked while we headed out the front door.

"Well, yeah, pretty much. I got hurt one time over at his house, it wasn't any big deal, but dad flipped out pretty much."

"That blows, man. Toby doesn't say much about it, but he always has nice stuff to say about you if he says anything at all," I offered.

"Toby was always a good friend, and he knew what was up when I wasn't allowed over anymore. We both hated it, but dad had the last word, you know?"

We hopped into the car and I started us in the direction of the mall and the restaurant. I had grabbed Matchbox Twenty's new CD, unfortunately the car had a tape deck so we listened to the radio instead of the new album.

"This is cool of you to invite me along," Wes said by way of setting a lighter mood for the conversation .

"Glad you could convince the commandant, I mean, your dad to let you!" I giggled.

"He can be tough sometimes," he winced, "but I asked Gram to work on him for me. Gram thinks I don't go out much as it is, so she bullies dad sometimes."

"I can believe that! She's got a will of iron!" I laughed and Wes joined me.

"Gram makes things happen that's for sure. My mom lost a kid before me, she had a miscarriage and they were told she wouldn't have kids, so when I came along...let's just say dad is a little concerned where something affects me."

"That's kinda cool, though, you know he cares even if he does kinda smother you," I giggled again.

"It's not funny, wise ass!" he laughed.

"Then why are you laughing?" I chortled.

"Cause you are! It's your fault, stop laughing!" he continued to smile and giggle along with me before finally slugging my arm.

We pulled into the lot at Friendly's just outside the mall. The restaurant was actually in the mall, but they had an outside entrance too. It appeared as though we were the first to arrive and went ahead and got the table for four.

"So how was cleaning the garage out?" Wes asked after we had placed our drink order.

"An interesting experience," I replied with a wry smile.

"Yeah? Anything happen we should know about?" he asked.

"I broke a lot of dishes," I said seriously as I nodded, he just laughed.

"I'll alert the media!" he laughed and I joined him, "Why did you do that?" he asked.

"I was just kind of...surprised. My mom was saying weird shit all day," I replied not wanting to reveal all my secrets to everyone.

"Mom's are good at that, how do they know shit and the exact wrong time to say it?" he asked with a smirk. I grew nervous, he was hitting too close with this conversation. It was like he knew already, like someone had blabbed. Karla!

"Like my Mom, she comes into my room the other day, she's just chatting away like she always comes in my room to talk," his face indicated this was not the case, "and just like that she says she and my dad are splitting up," he trailed away into silence suddenly avoiding my eyes.

"Sorry, that wasn't actually the point of the story, just sort of came out," he said quietly.

"Don't apologize to me, dude, I'm sorry you have to deal with that shit," I replied.

He let out a small bark of a laugh, "I dropped my radio, broke the case on it when she said that. Here I am telling someone I have known for less than a week, how fucked is that?" he asked quietly, still not looking at me.

"Well, I guess you must trust me then?" I replied timidly while placing a hand on his shoulder; all a man is supposed to do to comfort another man.

"I guess I just don't have anyone to tell, in case you didn't notice I'm not exactly a social butterfly," he said while not meeting my eyes.

"Yeah, well, it could be worse. You could have Toby and Karla," I smirked, "I'd be happy to share them, might take the glare off of me." We chuckled, a cheerless sound but better than silence at this stage.

"That's why my Gram wanted me to go out so bad," he said raising his eyes to meet mine, "she thinks you're a good person."

"Well," I said with a grin, "she's right! Who am I to disagree?" I asked spreading my arms out in a display of innocence and rolling my eyes heavenward. He giggled then wiped his eyes as he giggled a little more.

"Thanks, man," he said.

"No problem, now that we've established what a great guy I am," I began.

"She said good," he pointed out.

"Whatever, the important question is where are our two troublemakers?"

"They said you were the trouble maker," Wes replied with a grin on his face.

"Me? Oh no, they get me into more trouble than I ever would if left to my own devices," I snorted.

"Yeah, and you'd never eat lunch either, buddy," Toby said as he came around my right side and Karla loomed on my left.

"How long have you two been there? I asked defiantly.

"Tests too, he'd never know when a test was coming!" she chirped, completely ignoring me.

"You guys LIE about tests, you tell me we have one when we don't!" I whined as they took their seats opposite one another.

"Keeps you on your toes," Toby smiled and greeted Wes who returned his handshake.

"Wes, nice clothes! Wow, I guess Erik had no input on your attire tonight," Karla said with a wicked grin while I realized I was the odd man out in the sartorial category.

"It's a mall restaurant! It's like a half step above McDonalds! What do you want from me? A Tux?" I growled at her.

"Thanks," Wes told her, "he told me I was overdressed, but I guess it's all good now."

"Sweetheart, you'd be overdressed in a Speedo!" Karla grinned.

"Down! Bad Karla!" I hissed and the table laughed.

The waitress returned and we ordered without incident, which was a minor miracle for this group. Karla settled down and Wes gradually became part of the speech, if not the banter. I think he might have been a little intimidated with the way we playfully cut one another to ribbons, but he still joined us on the regular conversation.

"So what kind of a movie should we get?" Toby asked and Karla fairly bounced in her seat.

"Sixteen Candles, it's perfect!" she said with obvious enthusiasm. Toby and I instinctively wrinkled our noses in distaste, not because we didn't like the movie, just on the general principle that Karla wanted it. This was old hat, though, as we all prepared a few good, but throw away titles to sacrifice first before we settled on a choice.

"Next she'll be wanting anything with Jonathan Taylor Thomas!" Toby groused good naturedly.

"He's a hottie!" she smiled brightly. I agreed with her assessment, but declined to make that known at the moment, thanks.

"How about a horror flick? Like Jason X or the new Hellraiser? Oh! There's a new Halloween movie out!" I offered.

"Ewww," Karla whined.

"Man, get over that tired shit! They should have ended Hellraiser after the one with the toymaker, and the Jason ones are so done!" Toby added.

"They made this one movie, it was on TV, Rose Red? It looked pretty cool," Wes offered, unwittingly placing himself in harms way. I swam in to save him.

"That sounds good, I wanted to see that myself," I replied.

"Well," Toby hung by a razor's edge as to which way he'd go. If I know my Toby though, whichever way Karla goes he'll head in the opposite direction.

"No horror movies!" she said resolutely.

"I'll vote for Rose Red," Toby said with some finality, "That's three to one Karla."
"But I have the player and TV," she reminded him.

"You get one combined vote for the system, so that still makes it three to two. You lose, too bad, so sad!" he laughed while she smoldered momentarily.

"Wes, if the movie sucks, it's all your fault," Karla said with a wicked smile.

The movie's first tape had ended and I stretched from my position on the couch and went to the sliding door that let out onto the back porch. I stood quietly, breathing in the night air and relaxing. We had called Wes's dad as soon as we got there and he was pretty straightforward that Wes was to come home that night, then Gram got a hold of him and it looked like we would be staying here the night. His gram should be running for president or something, would definitely make good old President Shrub toe the line, that's for sure! It was only ten when we arrived at Karla's, but I figured that was late in `rent time so I should call soon. Wes seemed to be in good spirits, which was why his Gram sent him out here so that was cool too.

"Hey, there you are," Toby said as he stepped onto the porch, "I hate it when I fall asleep during the movie, I always get stiff and sore."

"Sounds like a personal problem," I snickered and he swatted at me, "Besides, you have fallen asleep at movies since forever, Toby."

"I know, it's cause I get to lean on you, sexy," he laughed and I just grunted at him.

"Seriously, you going to have `the talk' with Wes? Are you serious about him?" Toby asked.

"I don't know, we just met, Toby. He's really nice and I do like him, but I think he needs a friend right now more than he needs me making some clumsy hit on him," I sighed, "it'd be pretty selfish of me to try and take advantage of that he was hurting, not much like a friend," I sighed deeply.

"Well, if it doesn't work out, look me up, ok?" he said before ducking inside.

"Yeah right, Toby," I laughed.

Karla and Wes appeared together and Wes stretched before speaking, "So how did I do with movie picking?"

"I liked it, it's pretty awesome, although I need a dictionary so I can look up Metastacize," I replied.

"Yeah, it's creepy but not gory, sort of tense," Karla contributed.

"They say it's based on a real house, Rose Red really exists," Wes commented.

"That makes it even better, though, like it's not just some regular haunted house thing," Karla replied.

"So you work things out for your big night out with Sean?" I asked Karla.

"Yeah, we went to lunch yesterday and he is so nice, a real gentleman, unlike you clowns," she snorted.

What'd I do?" Wes asked.

"Give it time, sugar, you're male. You'll do something," she assured him with a grin before ducking inside.

Wes stood quietly with me, stockinged feet a stark contrast to the dark wooden planks that comprised the back porch. He rocked a little on his feet, swaying to music only he heard I guess, and I was entranced by him, being beautiful with no knowledge of it, being happy somewhere that his dad couldn't touch. Maybe, wherever his head was, it was raining and he was feeling free.

"What?' he asked.

"Huh?" I replied, witty as ever.

"What are you staring at?" he asked with a smile, dimples showing in the pale moonlight.

"Ah, nothing. I was just watching your face, you looked like you were somewhere else for a minute," I replied.

"I was, I do that a lot," he replied sheepishly.

"Looked like a good place, no worries," I commented.

"Yeah, it was a nice place," he smiled bashfully.

"Let me guess," I chuckled, "It was raining, wherever it was."

"No, it wasn't," he said, tilting his head at me, "why would you say that?"

"Oh, well, you know," I stumbled, "You just had this peaceful look on your face, and I know how much you like the rain and stuff, so..." I trailed off, feeling silly.

"I see," he said with a small smile.

"So do I get to look stupid, or are you going to tell me where you went?" I asked.

He looked at me thoughtfully for minute, almost as if he were weighing and measuring me, seeing if I had the right ingredients to confide in. Or maybe I was just being stupid again.

"I'm sorry about earlier, telling you about my folks I mean," he said, "I know no one wants to hear that shit, especially when you barely know them."

"It was cool, you needed to talk, and I can listen," I said easily.

"I appreciate that, Gram is great but...I need a friend too. I don't know, these guys at school they just...they're like aliens to me sometimes. I know sometimes that's just because I don't do everything they do, my dad sees to that pretty much, but it's like I'd be afraid too.

"I don't feel afraid to tell you stuff. I know you can be rough, I see how you guys talk to each other, but ever since we met you've been nothing but nice and easy going, and I just...I guess I just feel comfortable. I guess I'm just trying to say thanks, you know, for including me and asking me out tonight, I really appreciate it." He said. He said it without tears, no tremors in his voice, just simple statements with gratitude behind each word.

"I guess it might sound kinda harsh, but it's really no big deal from my end. You're pretty cool yourself, and it's not like hanging out with you is uncomfortable or anything," I smiled.

"Tell me something, something secret, something real," he said impulsively, looking at me intensely.

"Ok, only if you answer me one question too," I replied. Hah! He'll say no to that, everyone wants info, but they don't want to trade!

Ok, deal," he agreed. Shit!

"Um, ok, well," I swallowed hard trying to come up with something to say that was meaningful, but not giving the farm away.

"It can't be like, you cut the crusts off your bread either," he grinned.

"Ok, fine, well, that day I got stuck?" I prompted him, and he nodded in response, "There was a Rainbow out and you were at the end of it, like the...well, the pot of gold or something," I mumbled.

"Seriously?" he asked and I nodded in response.

"My turn," I said quickly to change the subject.

"You may fire when ready," he said with a small grin.

"That place you went just now, know, free place. Was I there?" I asked, feeling like an idiot.

"Of course you were," he looked at me as if I were certifiable, "you made that place for me, how could you not be there?"

"Guys? Can we watch tape two now? You know, before the year is over?" Toby asked.

"Um, yeah, sure Toby, sorry, we were just..." I trailed off with a small shrug.

"Talking," Wes supplied as we headed for the back door.

"Yeah? Anything good?" Toby grinned.

"Of course, so naturally it had nothing to do with you!" I replied with a large smile.

"See? I told you they were talking about me!" Karla said in triumph.

"You're right, Karla! Were you listening at the door or something? I figured you'd say something when I started to tell Wes how Toby says you like toys," I grinned at her.

"I liked you better when you weren't falling in love," she growled at me.

"Oh? Who's the object of your desire?" Wes asked.

Karla is so dead.