Cold air fogged the bay window in our living room as I nervously waited in front of it and struggled to see outside. Any minute now, Randy’s Volvo station wagon would be pulling into the driveway. He’d gone to Logan Airport to pick up his son, Elec, who would be living with us for the next year while his mother took a yearlong work-related assignment overseas.
Randy and my mother, Sarah, had only been married a couple of years. My stepfather and I got along well enough, but I wouldn’t say we were close. Here’s what little I knew about Randy’s former life: his ex-wife, Pilar, was an Ecuadorian artist based in the San Francisco Bay area, and his son was a tattooed punk who, according to Randy, was allowed to do whatever he wanted.
I hadn’t ever met my stepbrother before and had only seen a picture of him that was taken a few years ago, shortly before Randy married my mother. From the picture, I could see he inherited dark hair, probably from his South American mother, along with tanned skin, but had Randy’s light eyes and fine features. He was clean-cut then, but Randy said Elec had entered into a rebellious stage as of late. That included getting tattoos when he was only fifteen and getting into trouble for underage drinking and smoking pot. Randy blamed Pilar for being flighty and too focused on her art career, thereby allowing Elec to get away with murder.
Randy claimed he had encouraged Pilar to take a temporary position teaching classes run by a London art gallery so that Elec, now 17, could come live with us.
Although Randy took two short trips out west a year, he wasn’t there on a daily basis to discipline Elec. He struggled with that and said he looked forward to the opportunity to set his son straight over the next year.
Butterflies swarmed in my stomach as I stared out at the dirty snow that lined my street. The frigid Boston weather would be a rude awakening for my California-bred stepbrother.
I had a stepbrother.
That was a weird thought. I hoped we would get along. As an only child, I had always wanted a sibling. I laughed at how stupid I was, fantasizing that this was going to be some kind of fairytale relationship overnight, like friggin’ Donny and Marie Osmond or Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal. This morning, I heard an old Coldplay song I never even knew existed called Brothers and Sisters. It’s not about siblings per say, but I convinced myself it was a good omen. This was going to be okay. I had nothing to be scared about.
My mother seemed just as nervous as I was as she repeatedly ran up and down the stairs to get Elec’s room ready. She had turned the office into a bedroom. Mom and I had gone to Walmart together to buy sheets and other necessities. It was weird picking stuff out for someone you didn’t know. We decided on dark navy bedding.
I started muttering to myself, thinking about what I would say to him, what we would talk about, what I could introduce him to here. It was sort of exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.
A car door slammed, prompting me to jump up from the couch and straighten my wrinkled shirt.
Calm yourself, Greta.
The key made a turning sound. Randy walked in alone and left the door cracked open, allowing the freezing air to seep into the room. After a few minutes, I could hear feet crunching on the sheet of ice that covered the walkway but no Elec yet. He must have stopped outside before entering. Randy stuck his head back out the door. “Get your ass in here, Elec.”
A lump formed in my throat when he appeared at the doorway. I swallowed hard and took him in for a few seconds, my heart pounding harder and harder as the realization hit that he looked nothing like the picture shown to me.
Elec was taller than Randy, and the short hair I remembered from the photo was now a tousled inky black mess nearly covering his eyes. He smelled of cigarettes, or maybe it was pipe smoke because it was sweeter. A chain hung from his jeans. He wouldn’t look at me, so I used the opportunity to continue examining him as he dumped his bag on the floor.
Was that my heart or the bag?
He looked over at Randy, and his voice was gravelly. “Where’s my room?”
“Upstairs, but you’re not going anywhere until you say hello to your sister.”
Every muscle in my body tightened as I cringed at the term. There was no way I wanted to be his sister. For one, when he turned to me, he looked like he wanted to kill me. And two, once I got my first look at his chiseled face, it became abundantly clear that while my mind was wary of him, my body had been instantly put under a spell, one I would have given anything to come out from under.
His eyes bore into mine with daggers in them, and he didn’t say anything. I took a few steps forward, swallowed my pride and reached out my hand. “I’m Greta. Nice to meet you.”
He said nothing. Several seconds passed before he reluctantly took my hand. His grip was uncomfortably hard, almost painful before he quickly released it.
I coughed and said, “You look different…than I pictured.”
He squinted at me. “And you look pretty…plain.”
My throat felt like it was going to close up. For a quick second, I thought he was paying me a compliment before he followed the word “pretty” with “plain.” The sad part was, if you’d asked me how standing across from him made me feel, “plain” might have been the term I would have used.
His eyes were looking me up and down with an ice-cold stare. Despite the fact that I detested his personality, I was still in awe of his physical likeness, and that sickened me. His nose was perfectly straight, and his jaw was defined. His lips were perfect—too perfect—for the filth I was sure came out of them. Physically, he was my dream and in every other way, my nightmare. Still, I refused to let him see that his words had an effect on me.
“Would you like me to show you to your room?” I asked.
He ignored me, lifted his bags and headed toward the stairs.
Great. This was going well.
My mother came down the stairs and immediately pulled Elec into a hug.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you, honey.”
His body stiffened before he ripped himself away from her. “Wish I could say the same.”
Randy stormed toward the stairs pointing his finger. “Cut the shit, Elec. You say hello to Sarah in a decent way.”
“Hello to Sarah in a decent way,” Elec repeated in a monotone voice as he walked up the stairs.
My mother put her hand on Randy’s shoulder. “It’s okay. He’ll warm up. Let him be alone. This cross-country move can’t be easy. He doesn’t know me yet. He’s just a little apprehensive.”
“A little disrespectful prick is what he is.”
I had to say, I was surprised to hear Randy speaking that way about his son regardless of how badly Elec was acting. My stepfather had never used words like that with me, although I had never really done anything to deserve it. But Elec was being a disrespectful prick.
That night, Elec stayed behind closed doors. Randy went in there once, and I heard them arguing, but Mom and I decided to let them hash it out and stayed out of whatever was going on between them.
On my way up to bed, I couldn’t help stopping to stare at Elec’s closed bedroom door. I wondered if his alienating us was indicative of how the entire year would go or if he would even last the entire year here.
Planning to brush my teeth, I opened the bathroom door and jumped at the sight of Elec wiping his wet body down from the shower. Steam and the smell of men’s body wash filled the air. For some God forsaken reason, instead of running out, I froze. More disturbing, instead of covering himself with the towel, he let it fall nonchalantly to the floor.
My mouth dropped.
My eyes were now glued to his c**k for a few seconds before my gaze traveled up to the two shamrocks inked on his ripped torso and then to the full sleeve tattoo on his left arm. His chest was dripping with water. His left nipple was pierced. By the time my eyes landed on his face, they were met with an evil smirk. I tried to speak, but the words just wouldn’t come out.
Finally, I whipped my head away and said, “Uh…Oh my God…I…I’m so…I better leave.”
As I turned around to head out the door, his voice stopped me in my tracks. “You act like you’ve never seen a guy na**d before.”
“How disappointing for you. It’s gonna be really hard for the next guy to measure up.”
“You tell me. Don’t I deserve to be?”
“God…you’re acting like—”
“A giant dick?”
It was like a bad car accident impossible to turn away from. I was looking down at him again. What was wrong with me? He was stark na**d in front of me, and I couldn’t move.
Holy hell…his tip was pierced. What a way to be introduced to my first live one.
He broke my stare. “There’s really nowhere to go from here, so unless you’re planning on doing something, you should probably leave and let me finish getting dressed.”
I shook my head in disbelief and slammed the door shut behind me.
My legs were shaking as I fled to my room.
What just happened?
“How is stepbrother dearest today?” Victoria asked.
The bed squeaked as I plopped on my stomach and sighed into the phone. “Up to his usual ass**lery.”
I hadn’t told my best friend Victoria about Elec’s show and tell in the bathroom Friday night. It embarrassed me to no end, and I decided to keep it to myself. A Google search of pierced penises ended up keeping me up the rest of that first night. Let me tell you, anyone who innocently searches “Prince Albert” is in for a big surprise.
It was now Sunday, and tomorrow Elec would be starting at my high school where we would both be seniors. Soon enough, everyone would get to meet my jerky stepbrother.
Victoria sounded shocked. “He’s still not speaking to you?”
“No. He came downstairs to pour some cereal this morning and brought it back to his room.”
“Why do you think he has such a stick up his ass?”
You should see his other stick.
“Something’s going on between him and Randy. I’m trying not to take it personally, but it’s hard.”
It’s hard alright. God, I can’t get it out of my head!
Pierced mushroom head.
“You think I would like him?” Victoria asked.
“What do you mean? I told you…he’s the devil,” I snapped.
“I know…but do you think I would like him?”
Honestly, I knew he was exactly Victoria’s type. She loved dark and brooding guys even when they weren’t as good-looking as Elec. This was another reason I had to keep the details of the bathroom encounter to myself. All she needed to hear was that his c**k was pierced, and I’d never get her out of my house. But she’d find out what he looked like soon enough, so I figured I’d be honest.
“He’s really hot, okay? Really…fucking…hot. In fact, his looks are just about the only thing he has going for him.”
“Okay, I’m coming over.”
“No, you’re not.” I laughed, but deep down, the idea of Victoria throwing herself at Elec made me really uncomfortable even if I didn’t think he’d return the attention.
“What are your plans for tonight, then?”
“Well, before I actually met him and realized he was an asshat, I was supposed to be making Sunday dinner for all of us. You know…my one specialty.”
I laughed because it was the only thing I knew how to make well. “How did you guess?”
“Maybe you can serve up a can of whoopass on the side for stepbrother dearest.”
“I’m not engaging him. I’m gonna kill him with kindness. I don’t care how much of a…dick…(oh goodness) he wants to be to me. The worst thing I can do is let him think he’s affecting me.”
Mom helped me set the table while we waited for the Tetrazzini to bake. My stomach was growling, but it was more nerves rather than the smell of cream sauce and garlic emanating from the oven. I really wasn’t looking forward to sitting across the table from Elec, that is, if he even agreed to join us.
“Greta, why don’t you go upstairs and see if you can get him to come down.”
My mother screwed open a bottle of wine. She was the only one who would be drinking, and she likely needed it. She poured a little, took a sip then said, “Look, I can understand why he doesn’t like me. He sees me as the enemy and probably blames me in some way for his parents not being together, but there is no reason for him to be treating you poorly. Just keep trying to get through to him, see if you can get him to open up a little.”
I shrugged. She had no idea how all out in the open things were in the bathroom the other night: balls to the wall open.
As I walked up the stairs, the theme song to Jaws rang out in my head. The thought of knocking on his door terrified me, and I didn’t know what I would be faced with if he even opened the door.
To my surprise, he opened right away. A clove cigarette was hanging out of his mouth. The sweet smell of the smoke traveled quickly up my nostrils. He took a long drag then slowly and intentionally blew the smoke right in my face. His voice was low. “What?”
I tried to seem unaffected until an uncontrollable hacking cough broke out.
Very cool, Greta.
“Dinner is almost ready.”
He was wearing a tight, white ribbed tank top, and my eyes drifted down to a tattoo that said “Lucky” on one of his muscular biceps, which was now leaning against the door. His hair was wet, and his jeans hung low, showcasing the top of the white boxer briefs underneath. His steely gray eyes stared into mine. He was breathtaking…for a bastard.