A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
“You might want to close your mouth, or you might start catching flies.” Kim had to smile at Tristan’s response to her proposal, even through the emotional wringer she’d just emerged from. His jaw remained slack, hanging wide open, with eyes like saucers and eyebrows disappearing into his wavy hair, almost like in a movie. No boy had ever given Kim that kind of response, which made her wonder if maybe she’d just been dating the wrong guys this whole time. Tristan certainly seemed more grateful now, in the last thirty seconds, than Austin had ever been during their entire two-year relationship.
Kim reached out and put her hand under his jaw, pushing it up. The physical contact seemed to jolt him out of his shock and Tristan snapped his mouth shut, shaking himself.
“Um… I just want to check… Are you seriously asking me to the dance with you?” His earnest look brought an actual laugh to Kim’s lips, and when it escaped, it sounded foreign to her ears. When was the last time she’d actually laughed? Tristan might be good for her. Maybe not her reputation at school; she’d never live down dating a nerd. But for her, this could be a bright spot in her otherwise dark and dreary existence.
Continue reading.“I seriously am asking you to the dance with me. Yes.” She nodded to emphasize it. “And I have to say, it’s a good thing we’re at the library. If we were at that Starbucks, you’d have totally given the game away right then. Everybody would be talking about it already.”
“I haven’t even said yes yet! How could they talk about something that hasn’t happened yet?” His protest, spoken in a very earnest tone, made Kim smile pityingly.
“How did you get to junior year without understanding this stuff?” She shook her head, her ponytail whipping back and forth. “You should know by now that what my dear friends say has nothing whatsoever to do with reality and everything to do with what they think is reality. Or what reality should be, actually.”
“Well, uh, I guess I never thought about what other people said. I mean except for when they talked about me. Which isn’t often.” Suddenly a look of concern spread across his face. “It wasn’t often, was it?”
“‘Was’? I’m sure the rumor mill is going crazy right now. They saw me talking to you in the hall; that’s all it’ll take. Ten bucks says by tomorrow we’re a couple whether or not you say yes.”
He mulled that over for a minute. Then he smiled, showing nice even teeth, no braces. “I guess I might as well say yes, then, huh? Then at least the rumors will be true.”
“OK, then.” Kim checked her phone and realized with a shock it was much later than she had thought. Leslie had texted her asking when she would be home. High time she got back to reality here. She started sliding her unused Spanish books back into her backpack.
Tristan sat unmoving, looking very thoughtful. As she stood up, he said, “So, uh, does that mean we’re…um…together, then? Like besides the dance?”
“Let’s just see how the dance goes,” Kim replied, “And go from there, OK? Now do you want a ride home or not?” That lit a fire under him, and he scrambled to shove all the miscellaneous papers and teaching aids, plus several fat Spanish-English dictionaries, a textbook, and a workbook into his already bulging backpack.
“OK, yeah, that seems reasonable. I mean maybe you’ll hate me when I’m not doing Spanish.” He gave up trying to organize the backpack and started just shoving things in as best he could. “So, uh, do you think you’d like me more if I spoke only Spanish? Like some cool foreigner or something?”
Kim laughed and took his arm affectionately as they made their way to the door. “I wouldn’t understand anything you said.”
“Who knows, maybe that’d be a good thing,” Tristan replied, and his sincerity made Kim laugh again. All this laughing certainly was not normal in her life, but it felt good. Every laugh made the next come easier.
“I don’t know,” Kim said, “But I think maybe you’ll be a good thing for me. You’re so nice and wholesome and normal. Nice change from my demented, messed up family.” She couldn’t understand why silence descended on them after that, or why Tristan looked so uncomfortable all of a sudden. Surely it wasn’t the fact that she pressed herself so close to him; any normal, warm-blooded teenage boy in their high school would have killed to walk arm in arm with Kim under any circumstances.
This time Tristan let her drop him off in front of his house, although he still seemed remarkably uneasy about it. “What’s the big deal?” Kim asked as she pulled up in front of the modest home. OK, maybe “modest” was kind; it looked pretty tiny, a small two-storey home with peeling vinyl siding and a scrubby lawn. No garage. Not what she’d imagined, but then, not everybody’s Father was some big shot CEO, either.
“What do your parents do?” They sat a moment in the car, drawing out their first hour as a potential couple as long as possible.
“Brains.” Tristan blurted, then closed his eyes and smacked his forehead. “Sorry. I mean, my dad’s a brainiac. He’s an associate professor at Something University.”
“Like lecturing and stuff?”
“Yeah, and research.” Tristan seemed reticent about his father, so Kim tried a different tack.
“How ’bout your mother?”
“She’s a stay at home zo—mom.” Tristan grabbed the door handle and shifted his grip on the enormous pack. “I think I’d better go. I’m not feeling so brainy – I mean well.”
Kim looked more closely at him, searching his face. He did seem somewhat flushed, and his eyes glittered a little more brightly than even landing a date with the hottest girl in school could account for. “All right. Are you going to be OK? I mean, do you need any help getting inside or anything?” This wasn’t an entirely altruistic offer; now Kim was curious. She wanted to see the inside of the apparently shabby home. Maybe it was nicer inside than the outside suggested.
“Yeah, I’ll be br—fine.” He popped the door open and scrambled out, nearly dropping the bag, catching his arm in the seat belt, and finally shutting his coat in the door.
When he opened the door again to loose his coat, Kim asked, “Are you sure you’re OK?” but she must have mis-heard his response over the slam of the door. She was sure he’d said “brains,” but that made no sense at all. And he hadn’t even lingered to see if he could get a good-bye kiss. Definitely a different kind of boy from what Kim was used to.
In the house, Tristan shut the front door and leaned against it. Whew. His mind was whirling. He couldn’t decide if he wanted Kim’s body or her brain more at this exact moment. Had he said “brains” when she asked if he was OK? God, how awkward was this? And now he’d be out for a few brains…
Mom appeared from the dining room, a steaming bowl of monkey brains in her hands. She knew it was Tristan and Lottie’s time, and she’d dug some of the primate brains out of the freezer just for them. Not as good as human brains – Tristan knew this instinctually even though actual human brains were, of course, totally out of the question – and Tristan could sm
ell their scent wafting across the room. He took a deep sniff. He felt himself slipping away as the virus spread, taking hold.
He dropped his backpack, not even hearing the thump as it hit the floor. He shuffled forward, arms outstretched, hands dangling, moaning, “Braaaaains.” The smell of sweet, salty, delicious, wonderful brains overwhelmed his senses. But the brains were moving away from him! He had to catch the brains and stop them from escaping.
Tristan shambled after the departing brains, moaning. He didn’t even notice that the door locked behind him as he fell upon the bowl, scooping and swallowing greedy handfuls. Brains were the best thing in the entire world, without a doubt.
“Have you seen Tristan?” Kim asked Caitlyn the next day as they worked on the school newspaper. “I wanted to ask him about some questions from the Spanish homework, but I haven’t seen him today.”
Caitlyn shrugged, not looking up. She’d seemed exceptionally distant today, more taciturn and unfriendly than usual. Maybe she was starting her period or something; Kim couldn’t really try to guess what was going on inside the other girl’s mind.
“What? What’s wrong?” Kim asked, deciding to just deal with whatever it was. Getting the paper out on time and without too many mistakes was hard enough, even when the other staff person was on speaking terms with her.
“Nothing,” Caitlyn replied, making it clear that something was wrong, but that she’d die before discussing it with Kim. “Do you think I should split this article about the ferret owners’ club, or try to squeeze it on this page?”
Kim leaned over, eyeballing the space. “I’d split it and put an ad for the English Department after-hours tutoring there. It’s about the right size.” If Caitlyn wanted to pretend like everything was normal, fine. Kim was a pro at pretending things were hunky-dory when they weren’t. Nobody would out-act Kim in that department.
“Lottie’s out too,” Caitlyn said a few minutes later, seemingly out of the blue.
Kim looked up from her article about Mrs. Snacks’ famous meat loaf (“I can disguise any leftover you can imagine in there!”), confused. “Lottie? Who’s that?”
Caitlyn gave her a withering look. “Tristan’s twin sister. Didn’t you know that?” Her voice dripped sarcasm, but Kim was impervious. Father dished out much worse than this on a regular basis.
“No, I really don’t know him all that well.” She turned back to her article. Be cool, she reminded herself. You’re not a couple yet. As far as everybody else is concerned, he’s just a nerd helping you with your homework. Definitely not your type. Definitely not the type you’d actually fall in love with.
“Oh, and here I figured you must know him so well, with you two going off after school together and all.” Caitlyn sniffed and slapped part of an article in crooked. “But then, I’m sure you don’t know that much about all those rumors about you two being a couple either, right?”
Kim looked up again. “What do you care? You know rumors. They’re always saying things that are totally not true.”
“Sure,” Caitlyn replied acidly. “Which is why I saw you and him sitting for a long time together in your car outside his house last night. I’m sure those rumors are ‘totally not true.’” A bitter, hateful smile spread across Caitlyn’s face. “And that’s why it really isn’t a big deal if I just told Carissa and a few other people about seeing you last night, right? Cause it’s ‘totally not true.’”
Kim sighed. She didn’t know why Caitlyn cared so much, or what she’d done to sour a formerly good relationship, but clearly this was going to be a long, long day.