It was a rainy Saturday morning. Shelly lounged on the couch in her pyjamas and fuzzy blue housecoat, eating cereal from a box. Aaron had given her a list of movies to rent and Shelly had watched almost all of them. "So this is what it's like to be brainwashed," she mused, as the credits scrolled on the TV screen in front of her. She had taken in a dozen Disney movies, a handful of the sweetest chick flicks, and started in on some deeper ones like A Walk to Remember.
The princess stories were silly. The girls were unrealistically beautiful and they sang too high and they fell in love without taking the time to tell the prince their name. The chick flicks were also far-fetched. The boys were simple characters: there was the jerk that she had to dump, and the perfect guy who was way more sensitive than any guy Shelly had ever met. Except, of course, Aaron. But he was just weird. Were boys really that simple-minded?
A sound in the kitchen made her look up from the names on the screen. A man wearing nothing but boxers was raiding her fridge.
"Do you have any orange juice?" he asked, digging further to reach into the back of the appliance. His boxers hung low enough that she could see where his butt crack began. The hair that was missing from the crown of his head seemed to have found plenty of space all over his chest, back, and arms. Shelly switched off the TV and, ignoring the half-naked man, went to her mother's room.
"I thought you were going to stop bringing them here." Shelly accused loudly.
Her mom moaned and rolled over in her bed. Her unnatural-looking platinum blonde hair stuck out at strange angles and her mascara had left ugly shadows beneath her eyes. Fortunately, she was clothed in a silky nightgown. "I'm sorry, honey. I thought he would leave before you woke up."
"Mom, this is so embarrassing. Why can't you be a real grown up mom and have a normal job and date normal guys instead of these sleazy half-bald losers?" Shelly regretted the words as she heard them leave her mouth, but she stood her ground.
Her mom sat up in bed, and looked at her, but didn't say anything. Instead of a 38-year-old owner of a hair salon, she looked like a kid who had been caught doing something she knew was bad. She opened her mouth, searching for the words to defend herself, then closed it again.
Shelly, tired of reprimanding her mother, left the room.
She went to her own room, pulled on some jeans and a sweater, grabbed her pen and notebook and an apple as she left the house. Mr. Boxers had taken her spot in front of the TV, and was now laughing at an old sitcom. "Nice to meet you, Sharon!" he called as Shelly slammed the door behind her.
"Hey, watch-" the stranger didn't have time to finish his sentence before Shelly slammed into him at full speed. The collision knocked her to the ground.
"You okay?" asked a familiar voice.
Shelly looked up. "Aaron? Why are you in front of my house?"
He offered a hand to help her to her feet. "I came to see how you were enjoying my movies."
"You weren't going to call first?"
Aaron shrugged. "I was in the neighbourhood."
They started walking together. Where they were going, Shelly wasn't sure. An awkward silence began to spread between them. Shelly knew he must be able to sense the tension in her steps.
They both tried to break the silence at once.
"So why are you-" Shelly began.
"Is something wrong-" Aaron said at the same time. He recovered first. "Sorry. You go ahead."
"No, no. You can talk." Shelly's question wasn't important.
"No, it's not really... I was just wondering if something was wrong. You seem pretty quiet."
Shelly sighed. "I just had a fight with my mom. Sometimes I feel like I'm the mature one and she's the rebellious teenage daughter."
Aaron let out a low whistle. "Must be tough."
"She goes out with these ugly, no-good guys. It's like she has no self-respect. I just wish she would grow up and be a mom. I mean, I get that she wants a relationship, obviously she is very dependent and I am not enough to fulfill her need for family, but does she have to pick up every dirt-bag who is intelligent enough to learn her name? Doesn't she know how desperate that makes her look? How is she ever going to find a nice guy when she settles for one-night-stands with fat, bald weirdos? Why am I even telling you this? I barely even know you."
Aaron stopped walking. He looked straight into her eyes. She felt like she was under a microscope, like he could read every thought she'd ever had. She felt a blush creep up her cheeks and she hugged herself to keep from squirming. "Why are you hanging out with me, anyway? Obviously I'm too damaged and weird to be with a sweet, sensitive guy like you. Besides, clearly, you like someone else."
That seemed to shake him out of his trance. "I don't have a crush on anyone."
Shelly looked at him and laughed. "You have a crush! How cute is that? Who is it? Why haven't you swept her off her feet yet?"
Aaron started walking again, refusing to face her. "No, I'm not telling you who it is." She heard a smile in his voice.
"Wow. You have it bad. I'm just gonna have to guess. It's Nikki Miller. No? Sandy Fokowski? Sara Grouse? Annie Chang?"
Aaron chuckled. "I'm never going to tell you."
"It's not me, is it?" Shelly bit her tongue, wondering what he would say and how she would react.
"Oh, good." She pretended to sigh with relief. Shelly decided she was glad. It would have been too awkward to break his heart. She was starting to enjoy being his friend. "So what's our lesson, today, then Master Obe-Wan? Am I making any progress?"
He gave her an expression she couldn't read. "You're not entirely hopeless after all."
"What's you're favourite movie? Out of all the ones you made me watch?"
"Sound of Music," he stated, without hesitation.
"Really? Why? I can't believe a boy likes musicals."
He cleared his throat. "I like the war part," he said in a low voice, puffing his chest out.
"I like that Maria isn't you're average beautiful, feminine heroine. She's quirky and she has guts, and she's not afraid to laugh at herself. And she makes the captain fall in love with her without even trying."
Shelly didn't know what to say. Another silence, this one more comfortable, descended upon them, until finally she had to ask. "Where are we going?"