Monday, August 29, 2011

Excerpt from Boyfriend from Hell

Chapter One
Boyfriend from Hell
By E Van Lowe

She was laughing.

That’s what I remember most about that night. It was
Saturday. The sun had recently gone down. It was still warm in
our old house, but once the sun had finished setting, I knew
we’d be slipping into our snuggies. That’s how Januaries are in
the desert—hot in the day, freezing at night.

We were seated at the chipped oak dining room table with
the mismatched chairs she was so embarrassed for company to
see. We were polishing the silver, and my mother was laughing.
We love polishing the silver. It’s a mother-daughter
bonding thing we’ve been doing as far back as I can remember.

When I was younger we did it in the summer, but since I’d been
in high school, we’d been doing it over winter break.

Ours is an antique set dating back to the early nineteen
hundreds that my mother got for a steal at an estate sale when I
was seven. We go to lots of estate sales, and yard sales, and
garage sales. Glendale calls itself the antique capital of Arizona.
This distinction allows anyone with anything festering in their
attic or garage to drag it out onto their lawn on Saturday
mornings and try to palm it off as an antique.

Since my mother loves antiques, you can find us on any
given Saturday inside some cowboy’s grungy garage,
rummaging through his crap, looking for the real deal. She has
an eye for the real stuff, so no one can cheat her out of a
bargain. She works for an art dealer. She is also one of my best
friends. Well… she was before our lives went to hell in a hand
basket. Guess I shouldn’t use that word too freely around here.

Hell, I mean.

As we sat polishing away, she casually said, “What would
you think of me going on a date?”

“Umm, you mean with a guy?”

“Of course with a guy. A man,” she said, the beginnings of a
laugh bubbling out of her. “I don’t have any prospects yet, but
I’ve been seeing all these dating sites on TV and thought, why
not?” She looked at me trying to read my face.

It was the first time she had mentioned another man since
my father had left ten years ago.

“Yeah, why not?” I said through a thin smile, although what
I was feeling was… why?

“Why not?” she repeated, soft laughter spilling out of her,
like there was some new, long awaited happiness to be
discovered, and she was brimming with the possibility of what
that happiness might be.

Why not?
“I can’t believe your mother’s going on a date,” said Erin.
It was Sunday afternoon. The next day. We were seated at
the food court in the Glendale mall, digesting my problem
along with a double order of curly fries.

“She hasn’t found one yet,” I countered. “She’s just talking
about it.”

I swirled a curly fry into the glob of ketchup on my
Styrofoam plate. “Hasn’t she read any of those books or articles
about single parent dating? Rule number one clearly states:
sneak out behind your kid’s back. Keep us in the dark as long
as possible. It’s a good rule.” I popped the curly fry into my

“In Suze’s defense, she’s just trying to keep the lines of
communication open. If she meets someone, it’s going to affect
your life, too.”

All my friends call my mom Suze, never Ms. Barnett. That’s
how she likes it. I call her Suze, too, but not to her face, never to
her face. I tried that once when I was ten, and if looks could
kill, I’d currently be pushing daisies. I think it’s cool having a
mom everyone can call by her first name—just not me.

“I know you’re only trying to cheer me up, Erin. But telling
me my mother might meet somebody is not going to do it.” I
swirled another curly fry.

“Hey, your mom’s kind of hot. I’m sure she’ll find lots of
dudes who want to go out with her.” This revelation came from
my other best friend, Matt. I’ve known Matt since kindergarten,
four years longer than I’ve known Erin. He was tall and slender,
with a ready smile and shock of fuzzy red hair. He was also an

“Matt,” Erin said patiently. “Megan doesn’t want her
mother going on a date. That’s why we’re having this little
meeting. Duh?”

“Oh,” said Matt. He looked from Erin to me, letting her
words wash over him.

Matt was not the kind of boy you’d normally expect us to be
hanging out with. Aside from the fact that he was IQchallenged,
Matt was a card-carrying member of our school’s
in-crowd, dubbed The Poplarati. He was on the varsity football
team and the track team. Erin and I were on the debate team
and the math team. We were card carrying members of our
school’s leper colony. Yet ever since Suze and I arrived in
Glendale and moved next door to the Dawsons, Matt has
always been a part of my life. I can’t recall a memory that
doesn’t have him in it.

“Why don’t you want Suze to go on a date?” he asked.

“Are you kidding? First off, if anyone in my family should
be dating, it should be me. I’m fifteen, primo dating age. How’s
it going to look if my mother has a boyfriend and I don’t?”

No one answered. The three of us sat in silence,
considering my problem.

The mall had recently been remodeled. Several upscale
restaurants had been added to the food court, which they now
called the dining terrace, as if by changing the name people
would forget they were at the Glendale mall. But you could still
get a good burger and curly fries, so the change was just fine
with me.

“Then why not get your own boyfriend?” Matt said all of a

That was a no-brainer. “Gee, Matt, let me see. Maybe it’s
because it’s social suicide for anyone at school to date a
mathlete. And guess what? I’m a mathlete!”

“But you’re cute,” said Matt. Then realizing he’d committed
the cardinal sin of complimenting a girl, he looked away
awkwardly. “I mean you’ve got the blue eyes, and… the one
dimple in your left check, and...” His awkward eyes found Erin.
“And you’re cute, too. You’ve got… the thing with your hair.”

His voice trailed off as he attempted to be the equal
opportunity looks-evaluator.

“Yeah, well, at G.U., geek trumps looks,” I said, disgusted
with my situation.

“And that thing with my hair is called bangs, thank you
very much!” Erin was equally disgusted, but hers was aimed at

“Then maybe you should go out with someone on the math

Erin and I stared at him. Matt knew good and well I wasn’t
ever going out with anyone on the math team. And it’s not that
I’m an elitist or anything like that. I’d just like to go out with a
cool, popular guy for once. And if he happens to look like
Taylor Lautner, so be it.

The Poplarati have no idea what the rest of us go through. I
mean, just because we’re lepers doesn’t mean we’d ever date a
leper. Those of us who occupy the lower links on the social food
chain have standards too—even higher than The
Poplarati—because our boyfriends not only have to be cute, but
they also need to have an IQ higher than that of a titmouse.
Unfortunately at Glendale Union, hitting the Dating Daily
Double (looks and intelligence), is a near impossibility.

“I don’t see what’s the big deal about Suze dating.” Matt
was now giving me the stink eye.

“Oh? Would you like to listen to your mother talking about
French kissing?” He screwed up his face as the image invaded
his thoughts.


His expression softened. “But you and Suze are so close. I
don’t have that kind of relationship with my mom. I wish I did.”

“Me, too.” Erin was looking at me with the same expression
I used on her when I was trying to make her feel guilty about

“Come on, guys, she’s my mother,” I said with an
exasperated sigh. “Can I really tell her that while we’re
snuggled up on the sofa watching Spider Man Three, I’m
secretly undressing James Franco with my eyes? Of course not.
These things I keep from her for her own good. And likewise,
there are things she should keep from me. I don’t care if she
wants to go on a date. I just don’t want to know about it.”

That wasn’t exactly true. I did care about her going on a
date. But if I told them how I really felt, I’d appear selfish.
Erin reached for the ketchup. “It’s just that you’re lucky to
have a mother who’s your friend. The only time my mother ever
talks to me is when she’s telling me to clean my room, do my
homework, or stay away from boys—not necessarily in that
order.” She squirted a big red blob onto her plate.

It was then the answer I was looking for came to me,
triggered by something Erin had said. “Hey, remember when
your mom didn’t want you riding in cars with boys? She told
you horror stories about what could happen.”

“Yeah. That was so lame.”

“Why don’t I do the same thing? I’ll tell her a graphic
horror story about some parent at our school who went on a
date and was never heard from again. That’ll scare her off
dating forever.”

“I don’t like it,” said Erin.

“Me, either,” said Matt. “I think Suze getting a boyfriend is
a good idea.”

I ignored both their responses. “Then it’s settled. I’m doing

“Megan,” Erin’s tone turned serious. “If you’re
uncomfortable with your mother dating, maybe you should just
tell her?”

I shook my head. “You guys have a lot to learn about open

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