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Authors: Lili Wilkinson

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Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend (7 page)

BOOK: Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend
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I can smell it from the driveway. My mouth waters. The smells get stronger and stronger as I open the door and slip into the hallway.

Food. Real food. Garlic and onions and meaty smells.

Mum's home.

I walk into the kitchen and stop, shocked.

It's like Martha Stewart exploded in here.

There are bowls of sugar and whisked eggwhites and cutup strawberries and actual real fresh vegetables and pots and pans and delicious, sizzling sounds. Mum is standing in the middle of it all, wearing an apron, her hands dusted with flour.

‘Hi, darling,' she says.

I stare at her and all the food, swooning a little at the wonderful smells. ‘Is this some kind of
Funniest Home Kitchens
reality show?'

She laughs. ‘What are you talking about?'

I wave a hand to take in the craziness of our kitchen. ‘When did our house turn into the set for a cooking show?' I narrow my eyes. ‘Is Jamie Oliver hiding in one of our cupboards?'

Mum stirs something smooth and brown and gravy-like on the stove with one hand, and opens the oven with the other and peers inside.

‘Wait,' I say. ‘Stop the presses. You're cooking a
roast
?'

Mum looks at me. ‘Yes, I am' she says. ‘What's the big deal?'

What's the big deal?
She asks. The big deal? The last roast Mum made was a tofu and nutmeat loaf. (Yes, it was revolting. Yes, Dad and I snuck out to McDonalds afterwards. Yes, there are still leftovers in the freezer.). Mum hates cooking meat, especially red meat. Especially a big hunk of meat that was once a cow. Now she's stirring something pale and creamy that looks like cake mix.

‘You're making a cake as well?' I ask.

‘Lord, no,' she says, and I sigh with relief. It is my mother after all, not some creepy culinary cyborg.

‘No,' she continues, still stirring. ‘This is for Yorkshire puddings to serve with the beef. We're having pavlova for dessert.'

I am actually speechless. My mouth hangs open. This is not my mother. This is someone else's mother. This is the kind of mother who makes sandwiches with normal fillings, like peanut butter or cheese and vegemite. The kind of mother who slices carrots into sticks and bakes muffins and buys white bread. Not the kind of mother who makes her poor only child eat tahini and home-grown sprout sandwiches on wheat-free soy and linseed bread on her very first day at school.

Mum starts spooning the Yorkshire pudding batter into an oily muffin tray.

‘Mum,' I finally manage. ‘Someone died, didn't they? And you want to break it to me gently. Just tell me, okay?'

Mum shakes her head, smiling. ‘Don't be ridiculous, Imogen,' she says. ‘I thought it would be nice to have a family dinner. I've been working a lot recently, and I wanted to make it up to you and your father by cooking something special.'

She passes me a basket of fresh crusty bread rolls.

‘Put these on the table, will you?'

The phone rings during dinner. I remember Ben has my phone number, and I hastily swallow my mouthful of roast potato in case it's him. What if it is? What will I say? I'll have to be witty. He likes it when I'm funny. But not too witty, because I don't want to seem like I'm trying too hard. My hands tremble.

Dad answers the phone.

‘Hello?' he says, and then listens, his eyes flicking to me. ‘Yes, but she's having dinner at the moment. She'll call you back when she's finished.' He pauses, listening again, and then gropes for a pen. ‘Uh-huh,' he says. ‘Okay. Bye.'

He hangs up, sits down again, and helps himself to another serve of beans. My fists are clenched so tight that I have little half-moon dints in my palms where my fingernails have dug in.

‘Who was it?' I ask, trying to sound casual.

Dad winks at me. ‘Another
boy
,' he says, and then shakes his head, grinning. ‘You're growing up so fast.'

Oh. Oh. ‘Was it the same boy as the other night?' I ask. ‘Or a different boy?'

Dad shrugs. ‘It's so hard to keep track,' he says.

‘Wait,' says Mum. ‘Do you have a
boyfriend
, Imogen?'

I feel myself go red. ‘No,' I say, as I have a particularly vivid flashback to The Kiss this morning.

Mum and Dad share this meaningful
Oh, we're so proud our
daughter is growing up to be a functioning heterosexual member of the adult
species, and she won't spend the rest of her life crocheting little hats for
seven million cats
look.

I stare at my plate for a moment, but I have to know.

‘So who was it, Dad?' I ask.

‘Who do you want it to be?' Dad replies. ‘Do you have a
crush
?'

He and Mum titter. I'm about ready to throw the gravy boat at Dad's head, but before I have the chance, the phone rings again. Dad raises his eyebrows.

‘Hello?' says Dad. ‘Yes, she's here . . . No . . . She'll have to call you back later . . . Okay . . .' He scribbles on the notepad again. ‘Okay. Bye.'

‘
Another
boy?' asks Mum, as Dad sits back down in slow motion, looking ready to spring into action if the phone rings again.

Dad grins. ‘They'll be breaking down the door soon.'

‘Gosh,' says Mum.

‘Who was that?' I ask, trying not to clench my teeth.

‘Prince William,' says Dad. ‘He has a glass slipper he wants you to try on.'

I shove an entire potato into my mouth. ‘Okay,' I say, chewing furiously. ‘I've finished. Thanks for dinner, Mum, it was lovely. I've got a ton of homework.'

I leave the room, deftly swiping the message pad from the phone-table.

As I walk up the stairs to my room I glance at it.

George 9078 1423

Ben 9093 7288

He called! Ben called me! I should call him back. No. Wait.

I need a plan.

I sit cross-legged on my bed and strategise. Charming, but not sycophantic. Funny, but not weird. Available, but not desperate.

I'm going to bring all the roast back up. I'm trembling and sweating and there is something inside me jumping around. I never really understood that phrase
butterflies in my
stomach
. Now I do, except instead of butterflies, I have elephants wearing butterfly costumes bouncing about with the Yorkshire puddings and roast potato.

I do yoga-breathing. I am the essence of calm. My chakras are resonating on the frequency where serenity resides. I am in control.

I glide, serene and peaceful as a swan, outside to the landing and grab the cordless extension. Clutching the message pad page in one sweaty hand, I press the ‘talk' button, only to hear my mother's voice in the receiver. Crap, she's on the phone.

‘I can't, Jason,' she says. ‘Not tonight.'

They seriously want her to go into work now? It's eight-thirty! There is no way I'm ever becoming a lawyer.

‘Alice, please–' says a male voice, but my mum cuts him off.

‘No, Jason. I need to spend time with my family.' She hangs up.

Hah! Take that, Jason. Evil lawyer scumbag. He probably wanted her help throwing poor people out of their houses. Or kicking orphans in the shins. Or knocking down little old ladies when they're crossing the road.

I am inspired by Mum's firm attitude. I dial Ben's number, and he answers on the third ring. My calmness dissolves like Aspro Clear – leaving a bubbly, fizzy feeling instead.

‘Hi,' I say. My voice sounds like I'm being strangled. ‘It's Midge.'

‘Hi,' he says. I love his English accent.

I wonder what his bedroom's like. I know he must live around here somewhere, but I picture him in a charming whitewashed English cottage, surrounded by rambling trails of ivy and hedgehogs and men with pipes and waistcoats.

‘So I've been checking out my MySpace page,' he says. ‘And I've got a couple of changes I need you to make.'

‘Um, okay,' I say. This is weird.

‘I hate the Beatles,' he says. ‘And I have absolutely no idea who Leonard Cohen is.'

‘Yeah,' I say, laughing. ‘Me either.'

Although I do quite like that
Hallelujah
song he sings.

‘Okay,' I say again. I sit down at my desk and log on to MySpace. ‘So what music do you like?'

Actually, this could be fantastic! I can find out all his interests. If I know what he likes, then I'll know what to say to make sure he likes me!

‘I don't know,' Ben says. His voice is warm and quiet and intimate. ‘Top 40 stuff, I suppose. Whatever's on the radio.'

Hmm. Not very helpful.

‘On to movies,' he says. ‘Black-and-white movies are boring – change it to the new James Bond, and
Spiderman
. And seriously, Midge,
Muppets Take Manhattan
? What am I,
five
?'

‘It's cult,' I say. I like the Muppets.

‘Whatever,' he says.

We update the rest of his profile.

‘Um,' I say. ‘I can give you the login details so you can do this yourself.'

‘Nah,' he says. ‘I'd rather you did it.'

I smile as I understand what's going on. This whole conversation is just an excuse for him to talk to me! He wants me to find out all about him. It's very cute, really. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds this whole getting-to-know-each-other thing a little nerve-wracking.

We talk for one whole hour. He tells me about his old school in England, and about his English friends. It sounds like he misses them a lot. It must be hard moving to a new country, having to make new friends and start at a new school. I ask him if the schoolwork is very different.

‘Don't know yet,' he says. ‘I'll let you know when I finally make it to a class.'

So he didn't go back to school after we had coffee this morning. He must be finding it difficult to settle in.

I bite my lip. I am the only friend he has at school. He
needs
me!

He'll rely on me to show him where the library is, and tell him who he should hang out with and who pashed who at the social last year and how he should never eat the chicken-in-a-roll from the canteen if he wants to live to see his twenties.

This entertains me for a moment, until . . .

O.M.G.

That's why he likes me! Because he doesn't know anyone else at school. Once he meets the cool kids, and figures out my place on the social ladder, that's it. I'm gone. He'll swan off in a haze of popularity, and I'll be left behind, alone and heartbroken.

‘I'd better go,' Ben says, interrupting my mental panic. ‘I have stuff to do.'

‘Okay,' I say. This is it – the beginning of the end.

‘Bye, then.'

‘Ben,' I say, desperate to keep him on the phone. It may be the last time.

‘Mm?'

‘Thanks. For understanding about the whole imaginary boyfriend thing. For not telling anyone.'

He chuckles. ‘I'm sure I'll figure out a way for you to make it up to me.'

Is he talking about more kissing?

‘See you tomorrow, Midge,' he says, and hangs up.

I hold the phone to my ear, listening to the dial tone and remembering the tickly, whispering feeling of his voice. I think I might have died and gone to heaven. Is this what it feels like to be in love?

See you tomorrow
. He wants to see me. He likes me.

He likes me!

8
ex·ul·ta·tion

–noun; the act of exulting; lively or triumphant joy, as over success or victory.

– A Wordsmith's Dictionary of Hard-to-spell Words

I am on fire. I am glowing so much I can't believe everyone isn't wearing sunglasses. People should be paying money to sit next to me, instead of going to the solarium.

Ben and I have been going out for three weeks. Everything is perfect. Kids who never even noticed me before are saying ‘Hi' in the corridors. Having a boyfriend is an instant ticket to being popular. Particularly when the boyfriend in question is gorgeous and has such excellent shoulders.

I go straight to Ben's locker. He smiles, then grabs my wrist, pulls me towards him and kisses me.

And I die and float up to heaven. Again, I hope people see. I hope they all feel jealous.

‘See you at recess,' he says, when he finally pulls away.

‘. . .'

I am breathless and dizzy and can't manage more than a monosyllabic squeak.

Ben winks at me and saunters away. I hope he actually goes to class today.

In English, Mr Mehmet rambles on about Narrative Voice in
The Go-Between
, and I glow. I feel like I'm the centre of the universe. Everyone is gazing at me in awe, marvelling at my beauty and the adoration of the wondrous, wondrous boy who enjoys putting his face against mine and exchanging saliva.

‘Okay,' says Mr Mehmet, after what I'm sure was a thousand years of droning, but feels like three seconds to me. Time must move differently when you're the centre of the universe. ‘You can spend the rest of the class working on your projects with your partners.'

BOOK: Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend
4.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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