Ben ambles into the kitchen, his sweatpants matching the style of his girl toy’s, although his are dark UO green, and instead of a tacky phrase on the back, they just have the Oregon Duck, our old college mascot. We graduated a couple years ago, so the frat-boy attire’s a little sad, but I can’t judge him too harshly since my entire workout wardrobe consists of old college shirts.
He yawns and smiles. “Morning. Have you girls met? Liz, Parker, Parker, Liz.”
Ben’s either unaware of the fact that Liz is giving him a dark look or he no longer cares now that he’s gotten laid.
Here’s the other reason I don’t exactly get my rocks off thinking about Ben in a romantic light:
He’s kind of a player. As a friend, I can love him for it, but on the romantic front? Never. Ever. Not even with every possible STD test.
“Hey, what happened to the must wear shirts in the kitchen rule?” I ask, shoveling in another bite of increasingly soggy Wheat Chex into my mouth.
“No such rule exists,” he says, with a wink for Liz-slash-Airhead. Her expression softens lightly, and I resist the urge to slap a little sense into the poor girl. I want to tell her that his winks are a dime a dozen, but what’s the point? She has airhead printed on her sweatpants for God’s sake.
“There is too a rule about shirts in the kitchen,” I insist. “House rule number fourteen. Speaking of which, where are my house rules?”
“Hard to say,” he says, opening the fridge and glancing at its meager offerings before pouring a cup of coffee instead. “But I may have used them to mop up OJ the other day. Or maybe as a coaster for my beer.” He snapped his fingers. “Oh wait, no, I remember. I just plain threw them away the old-fashioned way.”
I point to the doorway. “Shirt. Now.”
He glances at Liz. “She can’t concentrate when my abs are on display. We have to give her anti-swoon pills.”
Liz giggles even as she shoots me a searching look, as though she’s trying to determine whether I really will swoon over Ben’s admittedly impressive upper body. The guy’s like a machine. He misses workouts only on the worst of his hangover days.
“Do you wanna grab some breakfast?” Liz asks Ben.
Aww, poor Airhead. She doesn’t know the name of the game.
Ben’s face is immediately regretful. “I wish I could, but I promised Parker I’d take her to IKEA to get a new bookshelf for her doll collection.”
I’ve just taken an enormous bite of cereal, which prevents me from speaking, so I settle for my best glare. He’s breaking another house rule: No using Parker to blow off your girl toys.
I believe I even recently added a footnote:
And especially not about IKEA.
I hate IKEA.
“Doesn’t she have a boyfriend that can go with her?” Liz asked.
Ooh, badly played, Airhead. Too obvious in your attempt to determine whether I’m competition.
“She does. But he’s quite frail,” Ben says in a loud whisper. “Very petite hands.”
Annnd another rule broken: Don’t bash Lance so that you can use Parker to blow off your girl toys.
Lance isn’t frail. I mean, maybe my boyfriend’s not as much a gym rat as Ben, but he’s lean and fit and he sure as hell doesn’t have small hands.
Still, arguing at this point would probably mean extending Liz’s stay, and I’m more than ready to see Airhead on her way back to her dorm room.
I scoop up the last bite of cereal from my bowl as I stand. “We should probably get going,” I say, still chewing. “IKEA gets crazy on Saturdays, and I don’t want to risk them being out of stock on the extra-large shelves.”
“You have that many dolls?” Liz asks, looking torn between being creeped out and feeling completely sorry for me.
“Fifty-seven and counting,” I say, straight-faced. “And actually, Ben, if you’re going to be a while, I might just run upstairs and brush their hair? I noticed last night Polly was starting to develop a tangle.”
Ben drains his coffee, pushes back from the counter, and shakes his head at me. “You poor, sick weirdo.”
Then he turns to Liz, putting his hands on her skinny waist and pulling her forward with an apologetic smile. “You mind if I take a rain check on breakfast?”
I barely hide the snort. In Ben’s world, rain check is a synonym for I’m going to intentionally lose your phone number.
In under a minute, Ben is nudging Liz out onto the front porch, and, impressively, she doesn’t even look pissed. I follow them out, just to be annoying, watching as he whispers something in her ear. Her eyes go wide and sympathetic and she gives me an It’s gonna be okay, little buddy smile. She heads toward the sidewalk with a wave.
“What did you just tell her?” I ask, taking a sip of my coffee as we watch her leave.
“I told her you were an abandoned orphan and that the only thing your birth mother left you with was a doll named Polly. Hence the sad obsession.”
I shake my head. “You know I’m going to have to rewrite the house rules. And No dolls will so be going on there.”