Chapter 17: Much Ado About Nothing

“O.”

“M.”

“G.”

“DANTE LOTHARIO?!”

“You kissed Dante Lothario!”

E: “SHHHHHH! For plum’s sake, keep your voice down.”

Etta hissed at Billie angrily as panic washed over her and she quickly scanned the street for potential eavesdroppers. They were on their way to school and other kids could be taking the same road. She really didn’t want this to get out, at least not before speaking with Dante. Being involved with a popular boy like that… she could imagine what an uproar it would cause.

But the coast was clear and Etta’s expression changed from a frown to bashful smile as she corrected her amazed friend.

E: “Well, technically, he kissed me.”

B: “Finally something interesting happened in this stupid little town.”

B: “Soooo, how was it? Did you lick his abs?”

E: “BILLIE!!!”

B: “What? I would have!”

E: “Yeah, but you’re a mental case.”

B: “Hey! Alright, Miss Boring. Will you tell me the whole story or do you want me to die of anticipation?”

Etta shook her head in amusement but she obliged. She wouldn’t admit it, but she was dying to tell someone about it  – all the excitement was just too much to handle. And Billie was the perfect person, because she acted almost as thrilled as Etta felt.

E: “And then he said…”

After school, she rushed to the library. Her class got a new science assignment that day and Etta was ready to start working on it. She found three books that looked helpful and, pleased with herself, she hid in her favourite quiet corner of study hall and indulged herself in mysteries of physics.

However, the studying didn’t really go as smoothly as usual. Maybe it was because of the subject…

‘Every planetary body is surrounded by its own gravitational field, which can be conceptualized with Newtonian physics as exerting an attractive force on all objects.’

“Hmm, that sounds like Dante.”

…but she was distracted and unfocused like never before. Disturbed, she shut the book and, in a very untypical fashion, left the library quite soon.

But if she was hoping to find a better study environment at home, she was terribly mistaken. She barely made it to the kitchen when she heard the thumps and angry screams.

It was Seth. He was standing in front of the door to his room, hammering at it with his fists, his face red and his voice furious.

“AMON!! Open the door! Do you HEAR ME?! Open the plumming DOOR!!”

Etta didn’t know what happened and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to. Amon and Seth had been unbearable for  quite some time now. It was a never-ending cycle of insults and arguments with those two. When they weren’t fighting, they were denying each other’s existence or at least trying to make the life of the other an absolute nightmare. But a scene of this proportion was a new occurence.

“AMON! Just take your brainless bimbo and GO TO HELL!!!”

Etta rolled her eyes in frustration. So it was because of some girl once again. Etta hated Amon for rubbing the fact he never had a girlfriend in Seth’s face like that, but it was rather hard to feel sympathy for Seth when he was being so mean. She was considering if she should intervene somehow, when the front door opened and Melia walked in.

Melia: “What is going on here?”

Etta noticed her mama sounded tense and weary.

Seth: “MOM! Amon brought another hooker to our house! And they locked themselves in my room! REALLY! And they’ve been there for hours! Mom! He’s…”

And then, the door opened and Amon walked out with a big  smile on his face, looking surprised.

Amon: “Oh, hello, everyone. Are we having a family gathering or what?”

But before anyone could react, Seth turned and started shouting at him, his rage pouring out of him like poisonous vapors. And Amon was just smiling and looking at him, baffled. Etta couldn’t help but admire his nerve.

“YOU! You plumming bastard! I’m gonna…”

Mama sighed, rubbing her forehead. She was clearly exhausted and Etta wasn’t sure if it was work or annoyance over boys’ tiresome, inconclusive dispute.

M: “I can’t deal with you two right now.

M: “You’re both grounded and I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

And with that, she turned around and disappeared on the second floor, leaving both boys so shocked and speechless that they didn’t even notice Amon’s friend sneaking out of the house with inaudible goodbye.

“Ehm, see ya later – or not.”

Hour or two later, Etta found Seth outside, practicing chess.

Etta: “Hey.”

Seth: “Ugh.”

E: “Do you want me to talk to Mom? I could…”

S: “For plum’s sake, Etta. How many times do I have to tell you: I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP! Buzz off!!”


So she went. It saddened her when she realized Seth’s words didn’t even surprise her; heck, she expected him to yell at her. It’s become his new normal.

It was troubling, but so were other things. Like the fact that Dante didn’t call nor texted and Etta wasn’t sure where they stood after the kiss. She’d never kissed anyone before, she didn’t know the protocol. Dante, on the other hand, kissed lots and lots of people. And she didn’t want to admit the possibility that it didn’t mean anything to him, but she knew in the back of her mind that it was likely.

She was naturally anxious when he showed up for his music lesson. It was Tuesday afternoon, five days after the party, when he rang at their door. Etta waited patiently until she heard the piano and once she was sure the lesson started, she went downstairs. Their eyes met for a brief second when she entered the room and he immediately hit the wrong note. Etta smiled as she sat at the dinning table and opened her chemistry book, ready to work on her homework while he practiced like so many times before.

After the first half of the lesson, Devi took a little break and Dante shifted in his seat so he was looking in her direction.

Dante: “Are you deaf yet?”

Etta rolled her eyes at his joke.

Etta: “So that’s your intention! And here I thought you were scaring the ghosts away.”

Dante snorted.

E: “Uhm, are you hungry? I made fish tacos for lunch and there are still some left.”

He was, so they headed to the kitchen. Etta exhaled slowly as they grabbed their plates, gathering courage to ask him about the whole kissing incident.

“You really made these? Oh, boy, why don’t you… I don’t know, leave school and open a taco place? Or a pancakes place or something like that. You’re a pro!”

Encouraged by his pancakes remark, Etta tried to bring up the tricky subject.

E: “Maybe one day. Listen, Dante. I thought… maybe we should talk?”

D: “Sure! About what?”

Etta bit her lip. He wasn’t helping and she didn’t like the carefree tone in his voice.

E: “Well, you know. About what happened. At the party…?”

D: “Oh, you mean when Striker puked on Carlie’s hair? Man, that was pretty something!”

Etta broke off. Why was he playing  like this? He had to know what a big deal it was for her and Dante was many things but he wasn’t cruel.

D: “Etta? You were saying?”

She hesitated. He was looking at her with raised eyebrows and a confused smile.

He was clueless. Absolutely clueless. He had no idea what she was hinting at. And it was either a very good act or…

“You don’t remember.”

D: “You bet your sweet ass I don’t! I had so much booze that day I couldn’t even remember the party happened until others told me about it and…”

But Etta was not listening to him anymore.