I went up to my room before dinner to change out of my wet clothes. I was feeling a little disappointed. Twice I had almost kissed Artemis but we had been interrupted. I changed into some warm pajamas and went down to the kitchen table.
"What is this?" I asked, tilting my head to the side at the meat on my plate.
"Steak," Artemis said. "You didn't get much?"
"We didn't get any," I said and cut it up. "Is it supposed to be pink in the middle?"
"Many people prefer it that way," Evelyn asked. "I can cook it more for you if that would make you more comfortable."
"No, that's okay," I said quickly. "I'll give it a try first."
I put it in my mouth and chewed slowly. I was amazed. It tasted amazing and seemed to melt in my mouth. Never before had meat melted in my mouth. I ate the rest of it before giving my verdict but that seemed to be enough for Evelyn. I was blushing but Artemis put his hand on my thigh briefly. I jerked it away instinctively and sighed, about to apologize.
"Don't worry," he whispered, tucking into his mashed potatoes. Just before I was going to bed, his phone rang. "It's Larry," he said. "Everyone stay at the table but be quiet." He answered and pressed a button. "Hey, Larry; you're on speaker."
"Who else is there?" he asked, his voice sounding strange through the phone.
"Just the cat," Artemis lied.
As if on cue, their black Maine Coon jumped on the table and meowed. Larry scoffed.
"What's really going on with you and Deidre? And don't say you're just dating." Artemis sighed and looked at his mom. She bit her lower lip. "Hello?"
"Hold on, Larry. I'm trying to think here."
"There's nothing to think about, Artemis! Answer my question! And it better be the truth or I will personally beat your ass!"
I saw his eye twitch and finally Evelyn nodded once.
"All right," he said, "but you can't tell anyone. Do you understand me?"
"Okay," Larry said then he sighed. "There are other people around, aren't there?"
"Yes," Artemis said. "You remember my mother, Evelyn?"
Larry cleared his throat awkwardly. "Hello, Mrs. Kilgore."
"Deidre and her mother are here, as well," Artemis said. "We.... Well, the truth is Deidre and I are engaged."
Silence from the other end. I waited, chewing on my lower lip, as the cat jumped onto my lap.
"This is a joke, right?" Larry said finally.
"I don't understand."
Artemis sighed heavily. "I'll do my best to explain."
I sat quietly, petting the cat - Spaz - as Artemis spoke. When Larry would ask a question he couldn't answer, Evelyn or my mom would answer. After they were done explaining, Larry started to laugh. I frowned.
"And what is so funny?" I demanded.
"Sorry," he said quickly. "I don't know if Artemis remembers this, but about a month ago I read in a magazine that he was looking for a wife. I guess the media gets things right after all. Anyway, I suggested you." He snorted. "He wasn't nearly as entertained as I was."
"I still fail to see the joke," I muttered, feeling small.
"Shit. I didn't mean it like that, Dee. You just have to see this from my point of view, okay? You've been like a little sister to me for the last six years. I've seen you go through some messed up shit. Now Artemis, on the other hand, I've known much longer. I've also seen him pick up the habit of... hooking up with girls."
"We've talked about that," I said quickly when I saw the upset look in Artemis' eyes.
"I hope so because, when you do announce this, you're going to be hit with a lot of women."
"I'm going to bed," Artemis muttered. "Bye Larry."
He stood and left. Larry sighed through the phone.
"You don't have to buy my silence, Evelyn. I love Deidre and Artemis too much to let their lives get hectic sooner than they need to be."
"I'm going to go talk to Artemis," I said softly. "I'll see you at 8:30, Larry."
"Good night, Dee."
I left so that he could speak with our mothers and went up to the second floor. I knew Artemis' room had to be near mine for him to have heard my nightmare. Across from my door was a room where I could hear music playing. I knocked.
Artemis sighed when he saw me. "Sure you want to talk to me?"
"Positive," I said and he stepped aside so I could walk in.
His room was simple enough. He had a queen sized bed and a desk with his laptop. He had band and movie posters on his walls. One wall was painted dark blue and, under the posters, I could see the other three were light blue. Blue seemed to be the prevailing color here. The music was coming from his laptop. He was on Facebook looking at pictures. He tossed himself back in the desk chair and I sat at the edge of the bed.
"Who is this band?" I asked finally.
I nodded and looked around for something to talk about. "Is blue your favorite-"
"Don't bother," he said and I sighed. "I know why you're in here so just say it."
He swiveled in the chair, crossing his arms. "You think I'm a slut, don't you?"
"No," I said honestly and he stared at me. I shrugged. "So you played around when you were younger. Did you learn your lesson?" He nodded slowly. "Then it's over."
He sighed and shook his head, going to his dresser and finding pajamas.
"That's easy for you to say now, Deidre," he said. "But Larry was right."
"Are you worried I'll be scared off?" I asked, standing and turning my back while he changed.
"That life is behind me," he mumbled. "It's now who I am anymore. I don't want you to know that guy."
I glanced behind me and turned red when I realized he was only in his boxers, trying to figure out how to unfold his pajama pants.
"Damn. How does she fold these things?" he grumbled. "I hate it when she does my laundry."
"Let me see," I said and he tossed them over my shoulder.
I figured he was just frustrated because they weren't that hard. I passed them back over my shoulder and jumped when I felt his bare chest. I cleared my throat.
"The only way I'd meet that Artemis is if you show him to me."
"But you'll read and hear things like what Carla said," he argued. "You can turn around now."
I did so and crossed my arms. "Artemis, do you want me to see that part of you?"
He frowned. "I just told you I didn't."
"Then don't show me," I repeated firmly. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have listened to Carla. I know she doesn't like me and, if I had known she dated you then I would have been less inclined to listen to her. I don't judge people based on their past. I don't have any room to."
He nodded but still wouldn't meet my eye. I looked over at his laptop. He had a box open from one of his friends. He saw me looking and went over.
"It's Mike," he muttered to himself. "He wants to know about that damn party."
"What party?" I asked, hoping things would ease up.
"My friends are throwing a party this weekend," he said. "That's actually a good time to introduce you.... Think Larry would give you Saturday night off?"
I nodded. "If I ask him, I'm sure he would."
"Well, I'm going to bed," I said, walking to the door. "Are you feeling better."
I nodded. "Good night."