Cheers for the reviews.
Leisel manages maybe seven minutes of jogging before deciding she's had enough. Roman and I, who have spent the past seven minutes covering one lousy kilometer, don't bother arguing with her. Leisel turns around to head home, and Roman I pick up the pace as we jog down the street at a much quicker speed.
'Has the novelty of bouncing boobs worn off?' I inquire sardonically.
'Shut-up,' Roman replies, wrinkling his nose. 'Why is everyone so slow? Every time we offer to take someone with else, they slow us down.'
Roman speaks the truth. However, the very simple explanation for our relative speed is that our family and friends are largely uninterested in running, cycling or swimming. As such, we always leave our latest recruit in the proverbial dust.
'Do you think we'll ever learn, and stop asking them to come with us?' I commiserate.
'No. Hey, I know what. You should ask that guy at the bike store out on a date. Tom, that's his name. Yes, ask Tom to go on a date. You could date him. He'd be able to keep up.'
'I don't think he's gay.'
'He is. Believe me, straight men do not tell other men that they would look good in a particular jersey.'
'I find that logic to be weak at best.'
'You're going red,' Roman accuses. 'You think he's hot. You want to have nasty, sweaty, gay sex with him.'
'I do not,' I hiss. 'I'm red because I'm running, and because you're embarrassing me. Now stop talking and run faster.'
I further increase the speed, so that holding a conversation whilst running becomes impossible. My pace is naturally faster than Roman's, so when I push myself, he really struggles to keep up. He's extremely competitive, though, and will half-kill himself before admitting defeat.
We run through several suburbs, dodging cars as we cross the roads, and struggling not to give in as we force ourselves up impossibly steep hills. I'm from a relatively flat area, so the local hilly terrain was initially a shock – albeit a welcome one – to my system.
After half an hour of hard running we're once again outside the townhouse complex where we live, and it's here that we slow to a walk. We'll do a couple of laps around the block to cool down, during which time we'll talk about all the things we can't talk about in front of Leisel and Seth. These moments together have traditionally been something of a refuge for me, but ever since I started officially dating Jackie back in October, I've felt less and less comfortable sharing my thoughts. Over the past seven months Roman has grown to hate my boyfriend. There's no way I can possibly share the highlights and pitfalls of my relationship with someone who so evidently despises my lover.
'I need a drink,' Roman gasps. 'I think I'm going to die.'
I pretend I'm not half as exhausted as I am. 'Let's go inside and get a drink then.'
'No, we can go the shops,' he argues. 'I bought my credit card with me.'
Roman has a lovely MasterCard which his mother kindly pays off for him at the end of each month. He charges anything and everything he wants, and still his mother doesn't comment. It can be extremely frustrating to accept that your best mate can afford just about anything he wants, whilst you come from a home where if you're thirsty, and standing outside your home, you go inside and get a drink.
I'm fairly sure my foster parents would laugh out loud if I asked for a credit card. As an ex-foster child I was automatically eligible for financial aid, and this is supplemented with my earnings from a part-time job, and a hundred dollars or so that Michael – the less stingy of my foster parents – slips me every few weeks.
In essence, my family pays for tuition at a state school, my registration and insurance, and they provide me with a couple of thousand a year. Roman's father pays for tuition at a private school and bought him a new car merely for graduating high school, while his mother pays for his rent and living expenses. Roman may have a 'job' working eight or so hours a week, but if he lost his means of employment, he wouldn't have anything to worry about.
'You can do that,' I inform him. 'But I'm getting a drink from inside. Hang on a sec.'
I race inside and grab a bottle of water from the fridge, and head back outside to where Roman is waiting.
'Ready?' he asks.
'Ready,' I agree, taking a large drink of water. I wipe my face with the back of my hand, and then splash a little water over myself. 'Although you could get a drink for free if you wanted to go inside.'
Roman snorts and takes the water bottle from my hands. He pours the remainder of the contents over his face and neck, which leaves his curly, dirty blond hair plastered to his forehead. 'Thanks, but no thanks.'
I sigh and take my empty water bottle from him. 'Why do I bother?'
'Who knows?' he grins.
We trot down to the local shops in our sweat-soaked clothes. More zits are no doubt developing on my back with every minute that passes. I had pretty good skin up until about a year ago, when the joys of acne, bacne, and buttne started to creep up on me. I'm pretty much sick of adolescence. I don't want to grow any taller, get any more zits, and be treated like a child. On the other hand, though, I don't really think I'm quite ready to be an adult. It's a sticky situation.
At the local store, Romie buys me a blue Powerade to make amends for spilling my water.
'You didn't have to,' I offer, embarrassed. 'If I really wanted one, I would have taken money with me.'
'Meh,' he shrugs. 'It's cool. And hey, maybe if I spend enough money this month, it'd make Mum pay attention.'
'I don't think she's intentionally neglecting you,' I point out. 'She comes over at least once a fortnight.'
'I wasn't whinging,' Romie corrects sincerely. 'I'm just kind of wondering what her limit is. I was considering testing it out.'
'I wish Brett and Michael would not notice a few thousand bucks,' I reply ruefully, thinking of my own foster parents. 'If I asked them for twenty dollars, they'd bitch at me for the next year of my life about how I need to budget better.'
'At least Brett and Michael aren't pregnant,' Roman adds sagely. 'Although I'd be damn impressed if they were.'
We crack up laughing at the thought. I don't want to imagine my foster parents creating biological children of their own. It's so much nicer to think of them as asexual beings that care for the non-related foster children who pass through their doors.
Roman, however, has to deal with his forty year old mother having a second child. The father of the unborn child is a friend of my family, but he's not the kind of guy that high society women can be seen with, so Mona Kelly is officially going to be a single mother. I doubt there's a person in Brisbane who can't guess who the father really is, but we're all too polite to mention that we can see through the facade. Hell, Roman's her son and he had to go and ask Geoff whether it was he, or someone else, who knocked up his mother because Mrs Kelly refused to answer Romie's questions.
'Man, if that baby's born on my birthday I'm going to lose it,' Roman remarks. 'Happy Eighteenth birthday Roman, you have a baby sister.'
'Your mother's not due until the week after your birthday,' I point out. 'At least that's what she told me.'
'Yeah, but she's sick of being pregnant. Why wait four weeks, when you can wait three weeks and ask your obstetrician to induce you?'
'Personally, I would have thought she'd want a caesarean.'
Roman's mother is a preened, blonde woman with a red Porsche and a fifty percent share in two fashion boutiques. She's very skilled in the art of looking good. I can't imagine her participating in something as undignified as labour.
He shakes his head. 'She doesn't want a scar. Eh, if I were pregnant, I'd have a caesarean in a second. The moment I found out I was pregnant, I'd be booking myself in for one.'
'Me too,' I agree. My foster brother, who was raised alongside me, recently had his second child. His girlfriend took days in labour I found it painful enough sitting at the hospital, waiting for Kaleb to be born. I can't imagine being the one actually experiencing days of agony. 'I'd make them anaesthetize me from the neck down.'
'I'd want them to block my ears, too,' Roman adds. 'I've heard your nephew scream.'
'He's only three weeks old. Believe me, they get louder.'
'I'm so glad I'm not living at home.'
'Me too,' I agree, remembering some of the less pleasant aspects to living with my foster parents. 'It's amazing how quiet it is living with you guys.'
On the journey home, Roman and I discuss the pros and cons of living out of home. We discuss the psychotic things our family members have done, their weird mood swings, and their often illogical behaviour.
We arrive home to find Leisel and Seth in the kitchen. The former is in her jogging outfit, and the latter is in black Doc Martens, a plaid skirt, and a black shirt. I frequently find myself unable to comprehend what makes Seth dress the way he does, however for once it is not Seth's clothing that's caught our eye, but what he and Leisel are currently doing.
'Excuse me,' Roman asks in an incredulous tone. 'Leisel, correct me if I'm wrong, but were you not bitching to us about your weight this afternoon? Why are you now eating cake?'
'I was hungry,' Leisel replies blithely. 'Besides, I must have burned it off. We were jogging forever.'
'You probably only burned off a mouthful of that,' I correct. 'One kilometer isn't much.'
Leisel glares accusingly first at me, and then at Roman. Roman shrugs resignedly. He's giving up. He's smarter than I am when it comes to Leisel's paranoia about her looks, and isn't going to argue with her over the caloric difference between a one kilometer jog and a large slice of chocolate cake.
'I love you,' he announces, bounding across to the kitchen. He flings an arm around her shoulders, and uses his other hand to guide her piece of cake to his mouth. 'Will was only teasing. You know what he's like.'
'Will doesn't tease.'
'Will does so,' Roman scoffs. 'Where have you been living? Under a rock?'
'Under your putrid body more like it,' Seth corrects, licking his fingers. 'You and Will stink to high hell.'
'Do I?' Roman asks his girlfriend, in a hurt tone.
'I love you,' Leisel replies archly. 'And Seth was only teasing. You know what he's like.'
Roman sulks. 'You're mean to me.'
'You think I'm fat,' Leisel replies. 'And don't undo my bra strap.'
My best mate grits his teeth determinedly as he continues to try and undo his girlfriend's bra. 'But it's an ugly one. You need to take it off.'
Seth and I watch in vague amusement as the Roman continues his struggle to remove Leisel's bra. Just when Roman seems to have her pinned, she escapes his grip and races up the stairs. Seth and I exchange expressions of resignation as a series of 'help me', 'I'm almost there' and similarly stomach turning phrases echo downstairs.
I cut myself a slice of cake and eat it over the bench. Seth, with his multi-coloured mowhawk stares at me through brown eyes lined with black kohl.
'She doesn't want to run, because she's afraid she'll get muscles, and look like a man,' he explains, referring to Leisel.
'Oh. I don't think she looks anything like a man.'
'Neither,' he shrugs, dipping his finger into the icing of the cake. 'But you know what she's like. She worries. It's not that unusual for girls like her to worry.'
'I can imagine,' I agree.
Seth believes Roman is the perfect boyfriend for Leisel. He's convinced Romie would never cheat on her. What he doesn't know is that during schoolies last year, Roman did cheat on his girlfriend. Only once, though, and only to see what sex was like with a 'real girl'.
Do I think this makes Roman less of a good boyfriend? Not really. He doesn't regret cheating, and I doubt he'd ever do it again. Roman, more than anyone else in this world, often seems surprised by how much he loves her. His fling with the blonde girl at the coast was nothing more than curious experimentation.
Seth runs his finger around the edge of the plate, collecting up straycake crumbs. 'I have a date tomorrow.'
'Uh-hmm,' he murmurs. 'Oliver, again. My closeted high flyer. I can't decide whether I love him or hate him.'
'He looks quite good.'
Seth smirks. 'He does. Speaking of dates, have you given Jackie the flick yet?'
I sigh and put down my cake. 'Not again.'
My housemate shrugs. 'It's your body, Will. Just don't let the asshole into your heart.'
'Yeah, yeah,' I agree blandly. My appetite is gone. The idea of not letting Jackie into my heart is an anathema. I love him. I love him beyond any, and all, reason. I just wish everyone would stop harping on about what an asshole he is.
Seth doesn't bother to pretend he believes me. He just shrugs, then runs upstairs to join in the battle to retrieve Leisel's bra.
Disinterestedly, I throw my cake into the bin.