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Chapter 23 — The Legend of Schrodinger’s Queer
I remembered waking up at some point that morning when Cory returned from the bathroom. He curled back up with me on the air mattress set in the middle of my bedroom and snuggled close, his hand creeping up my shirt. The way his fingers tickled through my chest hair put me in mind of a cat kneading its blanket as it dozed and I couldn’t help grinning.
I fell back asleep cuddled up to a 210 pound kitty.
Only to be rudely awakened by my kid sister jumping on the bed a few hours later.
“For fuck’s sake, Zoe.” I rolled over and pulled the blanket over my head. Cory mumbled a sleepy protest and burrowed into my chest. “It’s too early for this shit.”
“‘Rain!” Zoe shook my shoulders. “You gotta wake up!”
“I don’t gotta do shit.”
“Mom’s making breakfast.”
“Vato, what’s going on?”
“Come on, you need to get up,” she insisted.
“Don’t care. Need sleep.”
“He might be hungry.” God, and now she was trying reason. Kid had to know it was way too fucking early to reason with me.
“We’ll eat later.”
“Mom’s attempting quiche again,” she said flatly.
My eyes flew open. “Shit.”
“And that’s exactly what it’s going to taste like,” Zoe added.
“What’s wrong with your mother’s quiche?” Cory asked groggily.
“Everything,” she told him, but he’d already snuggled back up to me and gone back to sleep.
“Whose recipe is she using?”
“That’s what she said last time,” I said, looking back over my shoulder at her.
Zoe nodded grimly. “You know how she is.”
I rolled my eyes. “How fucking hard is it to make a decent pie crust?”
“I dunno,” she shrugged. “But, you know Mom can’t be trusted with pie dough.”
“You’re our only hope.”
I groaned again and stretched. “Fine.”
“Yes!” she squealed and started bouncing on the mattress. It had squeaked at the indignity of my and Cory’s combined weight last night, and now groaned in protest at her added pounds. “Efrain’s gonna cook for me!”
Cory rolled over with a groan and dragged both hands over his face as I sat up and the covers bunched up at our waists. Had this been any other time, we’d be in just our underwear, and thus totally indecent by little sister standards. Last night, however, he and I had slept in pajama pants and lightweight t-shirts.
“Well that’s disappointing,” she said, frowning. “He has all his clothes on.”
“Do what now?” I said.
“At least let me see him without his shirt on.”
She bounced again, forcing us to huddle on the opposite side of the air mattress.
“You’re too young to be that thirsty.”
“Come on, at least the pecs,” she giggled. “I could bounce quarters off those things.”
“What is she asking about?” Cory said. How he managed to stay that asleep with my obnoxious sister jumping around was a mystery.
“I have no idea…” I started to say, trailing off when she pantomimed lifting her shirt up.
“I’ll settle for a picture.”
“But, ‘Rain,” she whined.
“God, you’re fucking weird.”
“Oh, come on. I’m sure he won’t mind.”
I stared at her flatly, but it became obvious that it was having absolutely no effect on her as she tried to reach across me to poke at my boyfriend when she thought I wasn’t looking. I slapped her fingers, and she pulled her hand back with a yelp. “Mine,” I growled. Zoe gave me her best innocent look (which still looked damningly cat-that-ate-the-canary, but, hey, at least she tried), and I caught her other hand sneaking over. I slapped that one away, too, only to see her first hand advancing again.
“Always thought you’d bring home one of those swishy, sparkly gay guys,” she giggled, redoubling her efforts to reach past me. “Who knew you had a taste for beefcake!”
She reached out again and I slapped her hand.
I slapped away the other.
Then had to slap back the first.
And then the other again.
“Aw! Look at ‘Rain gettin’ all butthurt.” The backs of her hands were pink, but she remained undeterred. “You know, I’m only doing this ’cause it bugs you.”
“Fucking brat,” I growled and kept batting her hands back as she squealed and giggled.
Out of nowhere, a pillow swung up behind my sister, hitting her in the back of the head about ten seconds before a second pillow slapped against my head. Cory, who had probably moved around while we were distracted, knelt at the foot of the bed, his hackles raised and a pillow in each hand. He was wide awake now and not happy about it.
“You assholes have ’til the count of five,” he said, his eyes narrowed on us.
“For what?” I asked.
“Oh, he’s cute as fuck when he’s mad,” Zoe cooed.
I cut my eyes over to him briefly and found that I totally agreed with the observation. A host of dirty thoughts güvenilir bahis sprung up, but I decided those would have to wait when I caught her wide grin out of the corner of my eye.
Her body tensed up, as if to attack again, and I realized too late that Cory was no longer safely behind me.
She watched me, as if for an opening, and I assessed the distance between my sister and my boyfriend, who still clutched the pillows at his sides.
Zoe suddenly dove at Cory and I leapt to intercept her. Cory raised both arms, as if to swing at us, only to fall over as Zoe and I crashed in front of him. Zoe tried to scramble back, and I tried to scramble after her, but we soon found ourselves under fire from Cory’s dual-wielded pillows.
In the chaos, we nearly missed the large pop that sounded from the side of the mattress. I didn’t know the weight limit for the airbed, but even if we hadn’t exceeded it, two large football players and a teenager bouncing on it was more than enough to cause a bust.
Air whooshed out the side and the three of us quickly found ourselves deposited on the bedroom floor.
Zoe, Cory and I stared at each other.
“That was the good airbed, wasn’t it?” Zoe asked.
“I think so,” I said.
“So, how much shit are you two in?” Cory asked smugly.
“About as much as you are,” she said.
“It is one-third your fault,” I added.
“I’m not sure one-third is fair,” Juaquin commented dryly. We spun around to find the other four members of the household watching from the doorway. “What do you think, Dad?”
“Thirty percent?” he suggested. “Lena?”
“Maybe a fourth,” Mom answered.
“I’m not sure,” Jennifer added. “He was kinda provoked.”
“Split Cory’s share, then?” Mom said.
“Not like we can hold him accountable,” Dad said with a shrug.
“Can’t really punish ‘Rain anymore, either,” Jennifer added.
“All on Zoe?” Juaquin said, and they nodded.
“So, now that that’s settled,” Dad said brightly over Zoe’s protests. “Breakfast?”
“Yeah…breakfast,” Juaquin said.
“Breakfast sounds good,” Jennifer agreed.
“Yes,” my mother added with a sardonic lift of her eyebrow. “I apparently have some pie crusts to fuck up.”
“And then the mattress pops, and the three of ’em are sitting on it like jackasses while it deflates.” Juaquin laughed and kicked a small rock across the road. This had to be the fourth time he had told the story since that morning. He, Eric, and a couple relatives walked ahead of Zoe, Efrain, and me, as we led a group of cousins down to the park. The five of us had been tasked with getting them out of the house and out of everyone else’s hair until dinner.
Within minutes of the first cracked egg, Efrain’s extended family had started pouring in. The Rosses and Santoses joined us for breakfast. In the middle of eating, a couple more families had arrived to help demolish the quiche (after checking that Lena hadn’t made it). And then even more had showed up as we cleared away the last of the dishes.
The odd thing about them, though, was that very few of the assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins looked like the Garzas. I mean, all three Garza children shared a strong resemblance with Bon and Lena, but very few family members looked like them even the slightest bit.
“This is an accumulated family,” Bon explained to me later. “You sometimes get stationed too far away to be with your real family, so you make one where you are.”
The people crowding into the Garza home had been assembled over the last two-and-a-half decades as he made his way through various duty stations.
Of course, it was this self-same accumulated family that was driving Lena insane. The babies could be fobbed off on the older relatives who just loved the things. The children were satisfied with raiding the storage tubs of old toys and watching cartoons in the family room. The adults had taken over the living room to socialize.
However, this arrangement left a contingent of unoccupied teens and tweens to huff around and complain about their boredom. And since they tended to be bottomless pits, the huffing and complaining most often occurred in the kitchen, where dinner preparations were still underway.
Thus, a pissed off Lena.
Zoe suggested going to the park to play ball, and Eric and Juaquin leapt at the chance to get out of various cooking duties. Jamie and Harlie insisted that I go, dragging along Efrain in the process. A few other cousins were convinced to venture out into the cold, either because that’s what the cool kids were doing or their cellphones had died, which brought our group into the double digits.
Eric carried one of Juaquin’s old soccer balls under his arm, but we weren’t exactly sure if we’d do anything more than kick it around. Zoe flitted about, rapidly texting on her phone, and was met at the park by one of her friends — a cute girl with an Ouran High School Host Club messenger bag slung across türkçe bahis her chest.
“Hey, Cory!” Zoe grabbed her friend and steered her over to where I stood with Efrain. “This is my bestie, Kate.”
Kate looked between us, her mouth dropping open. I waved to her and her eyes got wide. “That’s your brother’s friend?” she whispered over her shoulder at Zoe. At least, I think she meant to whisper. I could still hear her, of course.
“Nice to meet you, Kate.” I said to be polite, and her face turned red.
“It’s been awhile, kiddo,” Efrain said and reached out to ruffle her hair.
Kate stood there and stared at Efrain and me for several awkward moments, as if trying and failing to say something other than some nervous uhs and uhms. Zoe poked her friend, finally pulling her out of her stupor and into something worse.
“Can I watch you make out?” she squeaked, then promptly slapped both hands over her face and whimpered. “I said that out-loud, didn’t I?”
“You sure did,” Zoe said and patted her on the back.
“How does she…” Efrain started, but trailed off.
Zoe had the decency to look embarrassed. “I forgot to hang up the phone last night.”
“I don’t get it,” I said.
“I kinda heard the whole family drama thing,” Kate clarified. She had uncovered her face, but instead used a very thorough examination of her shoes to keep from looking at Efrain and me. She fidgeted with the flap over her messenger bag, exposing the spines of some of her books. The lettering style looked familiar, but since I mostly read scanlations, I wasn’t used to seeing manga titles in English, and it took me awhile to recognize the series.
“Dude, Junjou Romantica,” I said. “It’s been forever since I could bring myself to read that.”
“Huh? Oh yeah, that.” Her eyes darted away just as quickly as they had looked up. “It got a little repetitive. I’ve…uhm…been reading it just…for completion’s sake.”
Efrain rolled his eyes.
Just as I was about to tell him to go easy on her, Juaquin yelled for us.
“Yo! We doing this or not?”
“Come on, Juaquin,” Jamie whined as we came closer. “Why can’t we play football?”
He pointed at Efrain and me. “Because they’d have an unfair advantage.”
“Homo team advantage,” Eric chortled.
“Ohmigod, what are you? Like, twelve?” Harlie said in the snarly snideness unique to girls her age (which, from my understanding, was pretty damn close to twelve).
Zoe snorted and continued on as if Eric hadn’t just been burned by someone who probably still got choked up that Zayn Malik left One Direction. “We’ll play soccer since you totally don’t have an unfair advantage, Juaquin.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said, belying his whole claim by bouncing the ball on his knees. Juaquin bounced the ball up higher and bounced it on his head a few times. I recalled that quite a few of the trophies and ribbons in the family room had soccer balls on them. And Juaquin was the only one wearing soccer uniforms in the pictures on the wall.
I patted Zoe’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, we got this.” She gave me a confused look, and I explained. “I was playing futbol before I even knew what football was.”
I sauntered over to steal the ball and start deflating some egos.
Thanksgiving dinner was a pretty traditional meal with the usual fixings. Three turkeys (including a deep fried bird that one of the uncles brought over) and two hams. Pound after pound of mashed potatoes and casseroles. Dishes of brightly colored vegetables that would have been ignored on a Card family holiday table. Several pies sat back in the kitchen, but I think most of those came in with other guests.
It seemed nobody trusted Lena with pie dough.
The sheer size of the extended family necessitated the standard adults’ and kids’ tables. Efrain and I found ourselves once again sandwiched between cousins, on the younger end of the “adult” table. As much as we ate last night, plates were still piled pretty high. While it wasn’t anything on par with the training I did during an average football practice, Efrain’s brother still played tough and we both had to recharge.
Our little group had divided up to make two teams, but once the bigger guys got serious about beating each other, the younger kids wisely sat on the sidelines to run out their cellphone batteries with marathon gaming and texting. I admit, Juaquin had earned his reputation as a forward, but he’d been away from the field too long to really put up a fight against me. We ran a pretty close game, but were tied when calls for dinner had arrived on the phones whose batteries had not been completely drained.
I had offered Juaquin my hand in truce, but it seemed he shared his little brother’s competitive streak.
“We’re getting in a re-match after dinner,” he suddenly declared from his side of the table.
Zoe giggled, laden fork poised inches from her mouth. “Dad, did you know Cory’s played full back since third grade?”
“Had no idea,” Bon answered almost dutifully.
“Yeah, güvenilir bahis siteleri Juaquin couldn’t get past him!” A few eyebrows shot up around the table.
“Didn’t see you scoring any points,” Juaquin said.
“Tying 0-0 hurts, huh?” Efrain added.
“Dude, look at it this way,” Eric clapped Juaquin on the shoulder, “it’s a good thing that the gay guy is better than you at ball handling.”
A few chuckles, some groans at the bad jokes, and the older adults went back to their own discussions.
“I’m not, though.”
“Not, what?” Eric asked.
“Here we go again,” Efrain said in mock-annoyance.
“Not gay,” I answered.
“But–” Eric said, while gesturing at Efrain.
“And?” I replied.
“But–” Juaquin repeated, also pointing at my boyfriend.
“Come on,” I taunted. “You can figure it out.”
Zoe sighed and rolled her eyes. “He’s bi, dumbass.”
“He’s banging my brother,” Juaquin argued.
“Sounds pretty gay to me,” Eric said.
“So, a person’s orientation has nothing to do with self-identification, and is solely based on the gender of the person with which they are sleeping.” I paused as if to give the idea consideration. “Interesting theory, but it does present a problem. By this line of reasoning, one could not identify another’s sexual orientation without first observing them in the act of mating. Thus, when describing the orientation of a person who has not been observed ‘banging’ one’s sibling, one would have to describe them as both gay and straight at the same time. A kind of Schrodinger’s Queer, if you will.”
Eric and Juaquin looked at me dumbly. “Huh?”
“And if we were to take this theory one step further,” I continued, pointing between the two men, “the same could be said of you.” I avoided looking over at Efrain, who sat with his hand in front of his mouth as if to keep from laughing, or I’d end up giggling before I could deliver the finishing blow. “Sure, you say you’re ‘straight,’ but how you identify means precisely jackshit without my own observations to confirm. And please don’t take this the wrong way, but that’s something I’d rather not have to watch because 1. Daddies are so not my thing, and 2. Well, ” I paused, as if weighing my words, then shrugged, “at least Bon and Lena got it right the second time. It serves my purposes, then, to disregard your profuse claims of heterosexuality, assume that you are, in fact, gay as fuck, and then proceed to draw my own conclusions regarding the nature of your relationship with each other.”
I took a much-needed drink, noting with satisfaction that the entire table was silent, before looking back at Juaquin and Eric.
“I’m sure keeping your mouth open like that is a useful skill during your little Brokeback weekends,” I said as I turned back to my dinner plate.
Their dropped jaws shut so fast their teeth clicked.
I nonchalantly loaded turkey and cranberry relish on my fork. “Hey, vato.”
“Yeah,” Efrain answered, matching my tone.
“You did the marinade, right?”
“Brine,” he corrected, squeezing my thigh under the table.
“Yeah, brine,” I said.
He nodded at the amendment.
“Ah, I see.”
He grunted in acknowledgment.
“It’s good,” I said.
“Thanks,” he replied.
And then we both resumed eating as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. This was, of course, Zoe’s cue to lose her shit.
“Please tell me someone recorded that!” she giggled then pretty much fell out of her chair laughing.
Bon snorted from his end of the table. “You boys had that coming.”
Thus began the legend of “Schrodinger’s Queer.”
And, yeah, someone recorded it.
I shifted around, trying to get comfortable enough to sleep, while I waited for Efrain to finish getting ready for bed.
The second air mattress, one of those fancy numbers that looked like it was on a box spring, supposedly wasn’t as good as the one we popped this morning, but we never got to find out as someone had lost the pump. Since Juaquin and Jennifer were heading back that night, it just seemed easier to put us in the downstairs guestroom. We’d stripped off the old sheets, because who knows what they got up to last night, and remade the bed. The mattress was extra firm, and not as comfy as the now-busted airbed, but it was still more comfortable than my bed back at the dorms.
Although, a lot of things were more comfortable than my bed back at the dorms.
Like, say, concrete.
The door from the en suite bathroom cracked open and Efrain padded in.
“Hey, acho,” he said quietly. “Getting comfy?”
“If only,” I said, equally low. His family had already gone to bed, and we were the only ones up, not to mention that the guest room was on a different floor, but we whispered as if we’d still be overheard. I shifted around again. “I hate sleeping in clothes.”
“Then don’t.” As if to punctuate the statement, he pulled his t-shirt over his head and tossed it to the side.
“But, your parents…” I trailed off when he hooked his thumbs into his pajama bottoms and eased them over his hips. They fell to his ankles and he stepped out of them, leaving only his dark blue boxer briefs.
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