“Taylor’s experienced with all sorts of pyrotechnic disasters,” Iris informs the group.
“Really?” I slide a glance at Taylor, who’s slumping down in her seat. “Was she setting these fires?”
“There was a period of, I don’t know”—Iris mulls it over—“maybe two or three years from elementary to middle school when I’d be in my office grading papers or in the living room reading, while Taylor was in her room with the door closed. A terrible sense of quiet would descend over the house just before the smoke alarm went off, and I’d rush upstairs with a fire extinguisher to find a new charred hole in the carpet and a puddle of melted Barbie dolls.”
“She’s exaggerating.” Taylor smirks despite herself. “Mom, you’re so dramatic. Change of topic, please.”
“No way,” I object. “I want to hear more about the pyro-anarchist of Cambridge.”
Taylor smacks my arm, but Iris accepts the invitation to elaborate about the time her tiny blonde terror got sent home early from a slumber party for setting another girl’s pajamas on fire.
“They were barely singed,” Taylor insists.
“With her still in them,” Iris finishes.
Coach starts in on a “that reminds me of the time” about Brenna, which she somehow deflects toward me and the team. But I’m not paying attention anymore. I’m too busy copping a feel of Taylor’s thigh, because something about the idea of her being the menace of the quiet shady streets of Ivy Lane gets me a little hard.
“I’d like to know…” Brenna takes a performative sip of water from her glass because I guess it’s been five whole minutes since she was the center of attention and if boredom sets in, she self-destructs. “What your intentions are, young man, with our dear daughter.” Brenna’s dark eyes take on an evil gleam as she scrutinizes me.
“Excellent question,” Taylor’s mom agrees. Iris and Brenna have nearly polished off their second bottle of wine and at this point have created an unholy alliance I don’t believe I’m comfortable with.
“Oh, we just met tonight,” I say, winking at Taylor.
“Yeah, he was my Uber driver.”
“She was like, listen, this is going to sound crazy, but my incredibly rich and eccentric great-uncle died and in order to get my share of the inheritance I have to show up to this family dinner with a boyfriend.”
“And at first he said no,” Taylor adds, “because he’s a man of honor and integrity.”
“But then she started crying and it got awkward.”
“So finally he agreed, but only if I’d give him a five-star review.”
“What about you two crazy kids?” I say to Coach. “You being safe?”
“Don’t push it, Edwards.”
“No, he’s right, Dad.” Evil Brenna is on my side now. I prefer it this way. “I know it’s been a while since we had the talk, so…”
“Don’t start,” he grumbles at Brenna, although Taylor laughs and Iris seems blissfully unbothered.
Taylor hadn’t told me much about her mother beyond what she did for a living and that they were close. So I wasn’t expecting a woman still showing glimpses of strutting through the streets of Boston in a leather jacket and Sid and Nancy shirt with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. A punk rock PhD. She’s very attractive, her eyes and hair the same shade as Taylor’s. But her features are sharper—high cheekbones, a delicate chin. Not to mention, tall and runway-model thin. I can understand where Taylor gets some of her insecurities.
“There was this one time…” Brenna starts in again, and I tune her out, my gaze sliding to Taylor.
She has no reason to feel insecure. She’s gorgeous. I don’t know, sometimes I just look at her and it hits me all over again. How hot she makes me, how badly I want her.
My hand’s still in her lap, and suddenly I’m acutely aware that we didn’t get any time to fool around before I picked her up for dinner because we both had homework to finish and she was running a little behind getting ready.
I inch my hand up, just a little. Taylor doesn’t look at me, doesn’t flinch. Her thighs squeeze together. At first, I think I’ve overstepped, but then…she spreads them. Inviting my hand to roam higher.
Brenna is spinning some embellished bullshit about her internship at ESPN and some fight that broke out among a couple of the football commentators, keeping the parents entertained, while my fingers wander under the hem of Taylor’s skirt. I’m careful, methodical. Taking care not to make myself conspicuous.
As Brenna makes grand hand gestures and rattles the table with her story, my fingertips brush the fabric of Taylor’s panties. Silk and lace. Jesus, that’s so hot. She shivers, just a little, under my touch.
Swallowing the saliva that suddenly fills my mouth, I slide my palm over her covered pussy and holy fuck I can feel how wet she is through her underwear. I want to slip my fingers inside and—
I yank my hand back when the waiter suddenly appears and places the check on the table.
As everyone jumps into the dance of fighting for the bill. I sneak a peek at Taylor to see her eyes glinting with mischief. I don’t know how she does it, but this girl constantly finds ways to surprise me. Letting me feel her up under the table isn’t something I thought I’d find in her playbook, but I love that this side of her exists.
“Thank you,” she says after we’ve all said goodnight and are heading for our respective vehicles.
“For what?” My tone is a bit husky.
“Being here for me.” Gripping my arm as we walk to the Jeep, she gets up on her toes to kiss me. “Now let’s go back to my place and finish what you started in the restaurant.”
On Sunday morning, while Conor’s out with the guys helping Coach Jensen get his kitchen in order, I do laundry and clean my own disaster of an apartment. It tends to be that the deeper into the semester it gets, the more my habitat starts to resemble the harried chaos shuffling around in my head.
When my phone rings, I drop the fitted sheet I’m struggling to fold, grinning to myself. I don’t even have to check the screen to know who it is. I knew this call was coming, and I knew it would happen this morning. Because my mother is the most predictable person on the planet and basically it went down like this: after driving back to Cambridge Saturday afternoon, she would’ve stayed up reading and grading papers with a glass of wine, then gotten up this morning to start her own laundry and vacuum, all the while rehearsing in her head how this conversation would go.
“Hey, Mom,” I say, answering the phone and plopping down on the couch.
She gets right to the point with a soft opening: “Well, that was some dinner.”
And I politely laugh in agreement and say, well, it wasn’t boring.
Then she agrees and says, good spring rolls, too. We’ll have to go back to that place.
So for two minutes we’re just stuck in a ping-pong match of platitudes about pad thai and plum wine until Mom works up the nerve to finally ask, “What did you think of Chad?”