Read Love Drugged Online

Authors: James Klise

Tags: #young adult, #teen fiction, #fiction, #teen, #teen fiction, #teenager, #angst, #drama, #romance, #relationships, #glbt, #gay, #homosexuality, #self-discovery

Love Drugged (5 page)

BOOK: Love Drugged
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We passed a door that stood out from the rest, a white metal door with another security panel. It looked important and impassable. Without Celia saying so, I knew it led to her father’s lab. Despite her claim, the house seemed every bit as gigantic on the inside as it did on the outside. It felt like too much space for only Celia and her dad. Maybe this explained the self-contained expression Celia often wore, as if she was used to moving through her life on her own, sitting in these large comfortable rooms by herself. I wondered if her home life was mostly quiet, like mine.

She led me into an enormous kitchen. The counter displayed photographs of Celia and her family, a cluster of black-haired, handsome people posed in outdoor settings—around a rose trellis, brandishing ski poles, waving from the prow of a yacht. I recalled Mimi telling us that Celia had two older siblings, and here they were, along with the mother. In each of the photos, the mother had a wide-open, full-lipped smile. She drew the eye, effortlessly stealing the attention from her children. She was the source of Celia’s beauty. The father had a large head, handsome, with intelligent eyes. His gray hair, the color of steel, was combed back away from his face. He did not smile for photographs, which made him seem serious and intimidating.

We took our mochas and went through a set of French doors into the backyard. When Celia paused to flip a switch, floodlights suddenly revealed the garden, casting long shadows onto the brown winter grass. An evergreen hedge, high as my shoulder, circled a brick patio. There were two breaks in the hedge—one that made way for the brick path, the other to provide a view of the dark river passing by. Clay planters were set around, and I could imagine them spilling over with vines and flowers in summer. It was as if an artist had taken the amazing natural landscape and improved it.

In the center of the brick circle was an iron table and four chairs. Celia set down her coffee. “Can you draw?”

“Sure,” I said, eager to impress. “As long as it’s nothing too complicated.”

She sank onto one of the metal chairs. “Trust me, I have no artistic talent whatsoever. Once you’ve got the design down, we’ll use the scanner inside to make the flower tags.”

I almost sat across from her.
Sit next to her, you first-grade Romeo.
Awkwardly, I moved to the closer chair. The metal seat felt cold through my blue jeans. I dug out a sheet of computer paper from my bag. “Should I draw a Valentine’s heart?”

“Too obvious. Covici wants a
smidgen of
creativity, please!
” Her eyes searched mine for inspiration. “How about using our mascot—the chivalrous knight holding a bouquet of flowers?”

I pounded on the table in mock protest. “Way too difficult!” But she had a point, since the medieval theme would please Covici. I recalled something I had learned in my English class. I said, “In the Middle Ages, they sometimes used pictures of a deer to represent love. The old word for a male deer is

She nodded. “And people still say
to people they love.”

“Right, it works both ways.”

“Perfect. Draw a deer, and we’ll be done with it.”

“Okay.” I tried to draw one. It looked like a squirrel with long legs. “Yikes, it’s not so easy.”

“Put antlers on its head,” she said. “It’ll be clear then.”

I tried another one—shorter legs, but the thick neck made it look like a Frankenstein deer. I wasn’t confident I could ever get the body right, but I kept at it. My fingers were cold, and I blamed the caffeine for making my hand tremble. “What about a caption?” I said. “People will want to write their own messages inside. But on the outside, beneath the deer, it should say something.”

Celia smiled. “How about,
You’re a deer!

We both groaned.

Then she said, “What about using two deer, gazing at each other lovingly, nose to nose?
From hart to hart.

My shoulders collapsed. “Who knows if I can even draw

“I got it.” She took one of the drawings I’d started and sketched something fast. “You’ll have to redo it, but this could be easier.” The shaky sketch showed the head of a deer, with enormous antlers, peering around a wide tree trunk. The tree concealed the deer’s body. Underneath, Celia had written,
Don’t hide your hart from me.
“What do you think? I think it’s sweet.”

The concept was perfect: clever and simple to draw. “I love it,” I said. “I know I can get the head right. And the tree is easy.”

“Let’s knock this out. Get drawing, Picasso.”

We hunched close, shoulders nearly touching, both of our faces hovering over my drawing hand. It felt suddenly as if we were on a stage, the floodlight shining down on us like a spotlight. I realized it would be easy to turn my head and kiss her. Her body language seemed receptive, but she hadn’t yet broadcast a direct signal. Would I even get the signal if she sent it? I doubted that there was any boy in Maxwell Tech’s freshman class less sexually experienced than me.

This is not a date!

I drew the deer/tree image three times, in a slow hand, stalling, trying to muster the courage to kiss her. I decided to count to five, and then go for it.

Five … four … three … two … one …

Zero … negative one … negative two …

Celia squealed and jumped out of her seat.

“Celia, I’m sorr—”

“Look!” she said, pointing. Maybe she hadn’t been watching me draw after all. “Oh my grossness!”

I stood, my eyes following the direction of her finger. I searched the expanse of drab grass between the river and us until I saw it—a small, bright thing the floodlight had found. It glistened. It was a fish from the river maybe, or some sort of eel, a snake skin …

We approached it. I said, “Oh my God, it’s a …” I hesitated to say the word out loud to a girl.

“Condom,” she said. “A big ugly used condom.”

I leaned closer to study it. I had not seen many condoms out of their packaging before. And never like this, unfurled and enormous, in the wild.

She jumped on one foot. “Crap, do you know what this means?” She pointed to the house next door, her eyes burning. “Some people from
jumped the fence to do it over

“Construction workers?” The words just fell out of my mouth.

“What?” She looked confused.

“Or anybody, I guess.”

“Who cares who?” She was smiling. “Some people had
right where I used to jump rope!”

As we stared at each other, I saw on Celia’s face the same combination of surprise, revulsion, and curiosity that I was feeling—our first real moment of connection. I finally felt those wooden ducks coming together. Then I saw two more things in the grass, a silver bracelet and a plastic wallet. “Hey!” I reached down and scooped them up, thrilled to make a contribution to this discovery. The bracelet held a turquoise charm. The thin wallet contained eleven damp dollars and a student ID from DePaul University. We studied the photo—brown hair, a nervous mouth; dark eyes hidden behind round, John Lennon-style eyeglasses. I read the name out loud: “Amanda Lynn Hampton. What a funny name. Say it fast.”

Amanda Lynn
.” She giggled. “Like naming your kid
Ann Accordion

“Watch your step. There might be another used
somewhere.” Our shared discovery made me bold. “Yes ma’am, what we have here may be a whole
of condoms.”

“Not likely. I’m telling you, my dad would freak
at the thought of any strangers back here.”

I handed her the bracelet and the ID. “Hard to believe they had sex outside this time of year. It’s one way to keep warm, I guess.”

She smiled insanely. “Let’s call her!”

“Where’s the phone book?” I gathered our school papers.

She led the way back into the house through the French doors. We entered the kitchen, but stopped.

Here was the intimidating man from the family photographs. He was shorter than me, not much taller than Celia. Thick gray hair. Intense eyes, shining and curious, but not unkind. He stood with his back to the window. Had he been watching us? Had he noticed me sitting close enough to kiss Celia, even if she hadn’t—and even though I didn’t?

“Hi, Daddy.” Celia slipped the plastic wallet discreetly into her back pocket. “This is my friend Jamie, from school.”

I had expected Dr. Gamez to be dressed like normal doctors, in a white coat, but he wore a navy business suit. His black shoes were glossy and expensive-looking.

“Pleased to meet you,” he said stiffly.

We shook hands, and I felt self-conscious about my chewed-up fingernails. He wore stunning gem-studded rings on each manicured hand, like a rap singer or a fortune-teller. “Your hands are freezing,” he said. Still no smile.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Talented hands, too,” Celia said. “We’re making something for a club at school. Jamie drew these.” She laid the drawings out on the kitchen table.

“They’re not very good yet,” I admitted. I wondered if I might have drawn them better if my hands were warm, or if I’d been less nervous.

Dr. Gamez nodded approvingly. “You have an observant eye. In my line of work, the talent to observe, the talent and the discipline—these are highly prized.”

“He did it without even looking at a picture,” Celia said. It felt nice to have her bragging on my behalf.

“Perhaps you have hunted deer,” Dr. Gamez said to me.

I shook my head. “But one time we hit a deer with our car, up in Wisconsin.”

“You didn’t tell me that,” Celia said.

It wasn’t something I thought about much—just something that happened, between two more interesting stops on a vacation. But it seemed to spark some interest in Celia and her father, so I went on. “My dad was driving. I was in the back seat. But I watched it happen. Like slow motion. I’ll never forget how the deer looked, waiting for our car to crash into it. His left eye never blinked, not once. Maybe that’s how I remembered how to draw it.”

“You are sensitive,” Dr. Gamez said, his face finally softening. “Sensitivity and vision—both essential for an artist.”

I felt myself blush. It flattered me that this man thought I could be an artist someday.

He patted his stomach. “Will we be eating soon, Celia? We like to dine out on Fridays, Jamie. You are welcome to join us.”

I glanced at Celia, who looked as if she didn’t care one way or the other. “Sure, if you want to,” she said. She stared out the window into the sudden darkness, as if seeing something I couldn’t.

The kitchen felt colder to me now; it was dinnertime but none of the fancy cooking appliances were turned on. A kitchen without a mother, I thought.

“I’d like to come,” I said, “but my grandparents are expecting me.” This was only half true. While my grandparents did expect me, they also wouldn’t miss me. But I wanted to go home and process what I’d seen. Also, Celia’s indifference had caught me off guard.

“We will drop you on our way,” Dr. Gamez said. He looked at Celia. “If you are ready, then?”

She was reviewing the sketches, not smiling, as if her opinion of them had changed. “I’ll scan this stuff into the computer later.” She didn’t consult with me.

Dr. Gamez opened a door off the kitchen, and we descended the stairs to the garage underground. Four cars, with room to spare. The car we climbed into was black with leather seats; the interior smelled like soap. Celia sat in the front with her father. We cruised up the cavernous driveway to the street level, glided through the tall iron gate, and moved into traffic.

I stared out the car window, feeling uncertain, wishing Celia had tried to convince me to join them for dinner. Wishing the two of us had more time alone to make a connection.

But Dr. Gamez’s interest seemed genuine. He was a class act. It occurred to me, then, that true class included a good measure of warmth. I felt shy, as always, but we had only ten minutes and I wanted to make a good impression.

Prompted by Dr. Gamez’s questions, I told them about our apartment. I made a joke about sharing a bathroom with “the Metamucil twins.” I described my parents’ new business; boldly, I even took credit for the gift-wrapping angle. When Dr. Gamez put in a CD of
Phantom of the Opera
, I announced that I only liked Andrew Lloyd Webber’s early musicals and that all the rest were weak. “And,” I added, “if you compare his really good stuff, like
Jesus Christ Superstar
against shows like
Les Miz
, or even, like,
, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s don’t really stack up. In my humble opinion.” Suddenly my stupid mouth was running on overdrive.

Dr. Gamez smiled in a bemused way, and I wasn’t sure if it was my words or my manner that struck him as funny.

We pulled up in front of my apartment building. Three other cars were double-parked, hazard-lights blinking, keeping my parents busy. Downstairs, my grandparents’ windows were dark as usual, except for the flickering light of the TV.

BOOK: Love Drugged
4.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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