Chapter One: Leverage
"Don't you dare. I swear to all that is holy Jamie, if you even think about pressing that button I will end you."
Dear Lord God, is there anything more frustrating than a little brother? Nope, can't think of anything at the moment. Not. One. Thing.
Jamie, the little brother in question, never one to think about the consequences of his actions no matter how long or short they were in coming, was responsible for what could potentially be the most embarrassing situation of the entirety of my existence. One (excluding myself) couldn't really blame the little bugger though. He was, after all, a little brother. The tendency to be as annoying as humanly possible was programmed into his genetic code. So of course, when his little grubby paws came across a very damaging depiction of his beloved big sister earlier that afternoon he had no choice in his actions. In no way could he be held accountable for what came next. He physically couldn't resist, the impulses were far too strong.
That was the reason why now, nearly an hour and a half later, the eleven year old was hovering over my computer's mouse, having a debate with himself on whether or not to click the mouse, a seemingly miniscule action that could very well change the future course of my high school career, and not in a good way.
Undoubtedly you think I'm being a drama queen. Let me explain. I have the misfortune of having a computer genius for a brother whom I've apparently wronged in some way, shape, or form, with far too much free time on his hands. Somehow in one of his random raids of my room he'd found a picture that I'd thought had been cleverly concealed, hacked onto my computer (which had been password protected with the random password Fr73gpQ), gotten the e-mail addresses of my entire high school class, and finally scanned and attached the picture to a massive forward that was ready to be sent with that left click of the mouse.
That picture, that damn picture, immortalized one of the worst decisions that I'd yet to make in my short 16 years of life. It wasn't of me drunk, naked, or doing something illegal. No, it was something much, much worse. It was me striking a supermodel fashion pose while wearing a fuzzy pink feather boa, red glitter movie star sunglasses, silver high heels, and the piece de resistance: my mother's way too big size C lacy purple bra over my clothes. However, the worst part about the picture was that it was taken just a short three months ago.
Humiliating doesn't even begin to cover it.
I blame it on a combination of sleep depravation, an insane sugar high, and the all-around craziness that is a girl's sleepover. Cameras should be outlawed at those things. I mean, you're only asking for trouble by touting them around everywhere accessible in mere seconds when an embarrassing, awkward, and/or degrading situation presents itself to be captured on film 'til the end of time. Know what? I hereby decree that cameras are banned, and this ban is to be enforced henceforth and forevermore. Amen. The end. We're done.
I decided to calm down, or at least put on a façade of calmness. No use stroking the prat's ego by letting him know he had me all in a tizzy. The only way to get through this would be to appeal to his rational side.
"Jamie, before you push that button, think about this for a second: that e-mail is the only leverage you have. It's all that's keeping me from storming across this room and tearing you limb from limb, and you know I could do it too. You push that button, you're dead. 'S as simple as that. Mom and Dad won't be home for hours. There is no one in this great big empty house to hear you scream. I will pulverize you and once done dump your unrecognizable mangled body in the lake." I did what I knew would get across to him, I didn't threaten, I said it as if I read facts from a book. Jamie knew exactly what I was capable of, and while that wasn't necessarily first degree murder, the extreme emotional distress that that forward would cause entitled me to break a couple of his bones. At least.
Okay, now to finish this thing. "If you step away from that computer right now I'll grant you a full pardon. I'll forget any of this ever happened. Hell, I'll even take you out for ice cream. How's that sound James?"
Throughout my little speech the cretin had gotten more and more nervous; he even became outwardly fidgety, yet when the word ice cream crossed my lips the decision was made for him. I swear, sugar is to younger male as sex is to older male. Oh, the power that I wielded over him. It was almost too much, almost too easy. Almost. Now for his answer.
Wait, here it comes.
"Cold Stone?" Ha! He took the bait. We've hooked ourselves a big one here folks.
"Done," I intoned making sure to maintain eye contact while feeling like a deadly mafia crime boss from the Sopranos. I remembered from watching the Discovery Channel that eye contact was key in these kind of situations. Assert dominance. Let the lesser being know who's in charge.
He looked away first. Ha, I win.
Jamie's fingers flickered over the mouse one final time before he retracted them, stood up slowly, and cautiously approached me. He slid threw the doorway that I was currently leaning against while looking all cool like They do in the movies. Who are They? Not sure, but They sure know Their stuff. I mean, Jamie looked all unsure as if I was going to go back on my word and beat him.
I resisted the urge to jump out at him and scare him while he was this skittish. That would be truly mean, and I'm just not like that. Why was he so scared? It was just lil ol' me.
Well, to be perfectly honest, he does know me and knows that I don't have a forgive and forget policy no matter what I said, nor do I often take the so called "high road" when faced with a problem or a fight. I live by this policy: getting mad is okay, but you sure as hell better get even. This wasn't over, we both knew that. The question was who would initiate the next round and who would come out on top.
After I deleted that horrid forward, changed my password, and got on something to wear other than pajama bottoms and a tank-top, I ripped that picture to tiny, tiny little pieces. If I had a lighter handy I swear I would've burned it to a crisp, but as it were, Jamie was already in the car and honking the horn to Beethoven's Fur Elise. I mean WTF? Friggin' nerdy genius brother.
Once I got in the car and drove down the driveway even the minor annoyance of having the horn honked at me couldn't stop a triumphant smile from crossing my lips. I didn't even try to hide it. We both knew who won that round, and it was yours truly.
Jamie sulked until we pulled into the Cold Stone parking lot, then magically all his troubles just seemed to melt away. Again, will the wonders of ice cream never (or is that ever?) cease?
Fifteen minutes and one cookie dough ice cream cone later (with sprinkles!), I sat poised with my hands on my chin entranced in the spectacle Jamie dearest was putting on. He attacked a mountain of frozen calories and sprinkles (he likes them too! What do you know, we are related) that was his ice cream. Of course he'd picked the largest and therefore most expensive thing on the menu. I'd say that was my hard-earned dinero down the drain, or better yet, his throat, but then I'd be lying.
I'll let you in on a secret; while James was honking Beethoven in the driveway I'd gone into his room and raided his money stash. Under the mattress? I mean come on! Have some originality for Christ's sake. He was asking to be robbed by putting it there, but I figured he deserved to pay for all of the emotional distress he'd put me under this afternoon, and there was nothing like free ice cream therapy to calm down one's nerves.
I leaned back in my chair with appreciation, and though I'd never admit it out loud, I was impressed. Jamie was able to shovel that sugary goodness down his gullet to God only knows wear with the conviction of a man three times his size. Of course I was so absorbed, so completely enthralled with the show that Jamie was giving, and so comfortable as I leaned back in my chair I completely missed the entrance of two fine, upstanding members of the same hell-hole, commonly known as high school, that I attend. I'm sure I don't have to spell out what was about to happen. What with me going on and on about leaning back in my chair all oblivious-like, but I will anyway.
Already at the back of the shop in the most secluded spot possible donning sun glasses at 7:00 at night "I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can-" no stop it! Resist the urge! That's all I know of the song anyway, but that's beside the point.
So there I was musing about the possibilities of brother dearest having a second or possibly even third stomach (tee-hee Jamie's a cow) underneath all that skin and bone, when… well, you'll see what happens.
Here's a lesson in physics kids, actions and reactions, so pay attention.
Action: Two crazy ass inconsiderate girls sneak up behind me while I'm leaning back in my chair in my own little fantasy world where my brother is a cow and eating grass flavored ice cream, cover my sun glasses and scream "Guess who Ellie Pooh?!" straight in my ear effectively scaring the shit out of me, and violently bringing me back to reality all at the same time. Surprise of all surprises, when shocked and leaning back on only two legs of a chair you don't stay up for much longer. Here's one thing you can rely on no matter what else fails: gravity will still work.
Reaction: "Holy fucking shi- (crash) OW! Ow! Ow! Ow! God damn it! You bitches!"
Yes, that would be me screaming obscenities at the top of my lungs. Yeah, that would be my chair firmly connecting with the ground. Yep, that would be everyone in the entire restaurant (can you call an ice cream parlor a restaurant?) staring at me, shit I guess that means my cover's officially blown. Si, those two mysterious cover-my-sunglasses-with-their-hands-scare-the-shit-out-of-me people would be my cohorts during the sleepover/sugar high night where the bra picture was taken. Meet my best friends Frederica Elizabeth Gent and Margaret Simone Williams.
Let me give you a little heads-up, never ever, ever, ever, ev-er refer to the former of my friends as Frederica. She will kill you. She goes by any combination of Elizabeth. Eliza, Liz, Lizzy, Beth, 'Liza, and of course Elizabeth, but call her Fred, Freddie, or Frederica and you've effectively signed your own death warrant. Her wrath was infamous and even new teachers on the very first day of school somehow knew to call her Elizabeth and not Frederica.
Naturally, when we were cross Mags and I could get away with calling her Fred, Freddie, or even Frederica when she really pissed us off, and still come out with all our limbs attached at the end of the confrontation-er, uh-conversation, but that took several long years of friendship. Sweat, blood, and tears went into our ability to call her Frederica.
You think I'm making a big deal out of this name thing? I'm not. Her mother told me that one time in kindergarten, kinder-garten, as in she's a five-year old with pink ribbons in her pig tails, some boy was making fun of her name in the cafeteria and she dumped her strawberry milk on him and spit in his face. It was funny actually because Lizzy had a sweet disposition normally, but she went threw a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transformation when her first name was brought into the picture. Really, it was irrational and childish, but it happens nonetheless.
Speaking of childish, Lizzy looked and acted like a little kid too. In truth we all acted like kids on crack, but Liz was the full package. She had big eager blue eyes, actual natural blonde ringlets that were friggin frizz-free and bounced as if they were weightless, the lucky bitch, and was short and petite. She was innocent to the point of ignorance, something very rare in this day and age.
Sometimes guys would hit on her and their pick-up lines were full of nasty implications and innuendos, and she'd have no idea. It was like in Mean Girls when what's his face went up to Lindsey Lohan and goes "Would you like me to butter your muffin?" except worse. Whereas Katy, Lindsey Lohan's character, acts all confused and doesn't say anything Lizzy would be all "Muffins! You guys have muffins? What kind? Do you guys have blueberry muffins? I love blueberry! It's the best kind. Oh my gosh, I am in such a mood for a good muffin right now". Did I mention she was talkative and hyperactive too? She wasn't a ditz per se …well, yeah she kinda was.
Now on the other hand, Mags wouldn't go all Bruce Lee on your ass if you called her Margaret, but she did prefer to be called Maggie, or Mags by her friends. Of our little group Mags was the jock, or she would be if she tried out for a school team. Now we all did some form of sports, I played soccer while Lizzy was a former gymnast turned cheerleader (though I think that cheerleading isn't a sport, I dare you to say that in front of Liz), but Maggie was a totally different story. Maggie was our resident triathlete runner. She ran, biked, and swam constantly.
Maggie subscribed to health and running magazines like most girls subscribed to Seventeen, Cosmo, or Teen Vogue (which she didn't subscribe to but instead filched copies from Liz and I), she'd easily be all-state in any sport she'd try out for, but she was against the dependency and pressure brought on by team sports. That's why she did triathlons, no one to blame or congratulate but herself. I tease her for being too shy to try out for the team. Mags just has dependency issues from when her no good, dirty rotten Mom walking out on her and her Dad when she was little. Sensing some animosity there? My poor Maggie is now a commitmentphobe because of that bitch, so yeah, you would be right if you sensed some. She wants to be able to make it herself, and not have to rely on anyone or some kind of shit like that. Again, I just tease her for being shy and we leave it at that without going into an in depth psychoanalysis.
Besides winning an Iron Man, Mags wanted to be a famous chef. Iron Chef and Iron Man, she was obsessed with that metal. She cooked liked nobodies business too. We had a deal, she'd run for me and I'd eat for her. She loved cooking cookies and cakes and delicious sugary sweets but would never actually eat them thanks to all the health magazines that she'd read, so while I didn't exactly understand it, I valiantly preformed my best friend duties and was her official taste-tester. It's okay to be jealous, I understand. I've got an endless supply of cookies and you don't. Ha ha.
Maggie was the tallest of all of us at 5'10'' with dark brown hair streaked a much lighter brown from her countless hours at the pool and in the sun (which also accounted for her year-round tan), and was skinny. I repeat skin-nee. She was 5'10'' and a size 1, sometimes 2. She was going to see a doctor now finally because she ran, swam, and biked so much that she burned off more calories than she took in. To say it was starting to get unhealthy was an understatement. Her Dad, Liz, and I had talked to her and she had no problem in going to a doctor, she wasn't like those girls who did it to lose weight and be skinny like the actresses and models in Holly Wood. She was addicted to exercise like some people were addicted to crack and it had a negative affect on her like all addictions usually do, but she was fighting it. Whenever she ran Liz and I always joked that she was going out to get a fix.
Now that we're getting into descriptions and whatnot I might as well describe myself, which I hate to do by the way because I always think I sound like a stuck up braggart.
Whatever, I'll get on with it. According to just about everyone, especially my Dad, I was, and forever will be a smart ass. I'd always had something to say, curious, and you couldn't shut me up as a child, but as soon as I went through puberty, BAM! I became surly, sarcastic teenager girl with the power to make you tear your hair out in frustration and scream all at the same time! Curious George would've turned out like me if he ever actually aged and wasn't, well you know, a monkey (insert lame joke here, I know I was asking for it). It didn't help my situation that I was pretty darn smart too, not savant or Einstein level genius, but enough to give me a pretty sizeable ego. I firmly believe that tact is for people who aren't witty enough to be sarcastic (I got that off of a bumper sticker), and as you've figured out I have quite the potty mouth. I picked that up from my older brother Rob who's in college now and an addiction to South Park. Yep, only girl and stuck as a middle child. Pity me. Seriously, I think I've been irrevocably damaged. The emotional scars will never heal.
Ah heck, I really hate doing this. I'm 5'8'' and a dishwater blonde with hazel eyes. I enjoy reading, playing soccer, and long walks on the beach. Oh yeah, and as you can probably tell by now I get easily distracted and digress and have long winded commentary in my head about random, inane things. I'm not crazy, I swear! I just have a severe undiagnosed case of ADD. They won't give me Ritalin because my actual, real, I'm not lying case of ADD doesn't negatively effect my grades. Okay, I'm stopping now. If there is anything else you want to know about me you can look it up on more, I looked at my so-called friends, face burning a whole new shade of red that I hadn't even been aware was visible in the spectrum of light viewed by humans. That was all it took for all of the… emotions of the day to transfer from brother who almost sent The Picture to every teenage humanoid in a 20 mile radius, to my supposed bestest friends in the whole entirety of this world that we call Earth who actually caused the picture to be taken in the first place. Not to mention the whole new level of embarrassment that they'd just put me threw now. I may never be able to show my face in here again, cue sad face now. End of take.
The silence in the formerly noisy shop was deafening. I'd scoffed at that expression before, but it was true. Seriously, I couldn't hear anything but. Ugh, this sucks. I guess silence was better than mocking laughter, but it was still mortifying nonetheless.
I stood up and nervously brushed imaginary dust off of my jeans. Again, can you say mortifying? I'd just fallen on my ass and shouted a number of profanities including the number one no no word in a family, as in three and four year-old kids were present, ice-cream parlor. I have a policy about cursing in front of the youngins, I don't do it, or at least I try not to do it.
Damn it, this was all Their fault.
"Umm… sorry?" I addressed everyone, wincing as I apologized. I couldn't help it. All the moms in the room were giving me the worst looks I think I've ever received. You'd think I was the devil incarnate trying to recruit their precious little darlings and have them join my evil cult. Start'em out early, yep, that's how I roll.
I literally wilted under all those hateful glares and gazes. Way to be strong Ellie old gal. But on the real, I think once Mother's go through labor and their first child is born they perfect the art of giving the stink eye. Very intimidating.
I quickly turned around and picked up the toppled chair off the ground thinking that maybe if I disposed of the evidence then the incident would be forgotten.
"Mommy, what does fucking mean?" I winced not even daring to turn around.
Somehow anonymity doesn't seem like a likely option now. I could feel all the daggers aimed at my back. I ruined those kids innocence! ...Kind of. But still, they weren't supposed to know that word until they were at least out of diapers or something, and it was completely my fault.
I slumped down in my newly righted chair and wallowed in an endless lake, no, make that a mother fuckin' ocean of self-pity and humiliation. Could I be- wait, who snorted?
Oh my god, those bitches! I looked up to see my supposed "best friends" laughing like my pain and humiliation was the funniest thing in the world (it was beside the point that I would've done the same thing if I was in their shoes without even thinking twice).
Everything that had happened the entire night rushed through my head and I realized one thing: It was entirely their fault. The picture, me falling and bruising my ass, me cursing and receiving dirty looks, it was all their fault! This revelation abruptly got me focused on the important thing, revenge.
"You bitches," I hissed, looking up from my hands, still not daring to raise my voice to more than a whisper, albeit a vehemently hissed whisper.
The effect was not what I'd hoped for; they continued to laugh.
"I'm serious you guys! This is all your fucking fault. You don't even fucking know the hell I've been dragged through tonight," They stopped laughing.
Now that's what I'm talking about.
"Seriously, and you guys call yourselves my friends," I scoffed. "Y'all are in some deep shit-" I stopped my tirade enough to notice that they weren't looking at me; I followed their gaze, which was focused somewhere over my shoulder, and came face to shirt with the object under their inspection.
My eyes strayed upward, "Oh, um, hello," I managed to get out before turning back around for a millisecond to look at Lizzy and Mags, looking totally helpless as I mouthed the words 'Oh my God'. If the chair I was sitting in was attached to the ground I would have swiveled to look at the guy standing behind me, but it wasn't so I had to manage by simply moving my body to look at him. You can tell I'm still bitter about it, no?
"Yes?" I smiled sweetly up at the uniform clad man, putting on my I'm nothing but a kind, innocent girl who's never spoken, let alone heard of, any of the smuttier four letter words in existence during the entirety of my kind, innocent life impression.
"Miss, we're going to have to ask you and your friends to leave," Okay, so maybe I need to work on that impression some more, but who could hold me at fault when he'd no doubt heard me bitching out my friends two seconds earlier. I mean, I wouldn't even believe me and I'm the most believable person I know. At least this guy included my Mags and Liz in his eviction notice talky-thingy. I can't believe I'm getting kicked out of Cold Stone frickin Creamery.
"Who's we?" a perplexed voice asked from somewhere. Oh, that's me.
Lizzy and Mags rolled their eyes somewhere in the background and smiled their little inside joke "Oh, Ellie" smile. If I wasn't so used to it by now I'd probably be offended.
The guy looked a little taken aback for a second but quickly recovered, "That would be me."
I took a nice long look at the chap, giving him the up down. Rather rudely too, I might add. What was bound to be an invasion of his privacy was as much a part of my act as genuine interest. Listen up now because I'm only going to say it once, I'm not going to pretend that I'm good at descriptions. Descriptions on anything and everything. When I was little and my stomach would hurt, I'd go to my Mom and complain about it. She'd say well, what does it feel like? I'd tell her it hurts. She'd look at me exasperatedly and say something stupid like is it stabbing pains like daggers, or cramping pains like someone squeezing you too hard, or what? I'd look at her thinking, does it look like I'd know what it felt like to be stabbed by daggers, and then I'd promptly throw up at her feet.
I'm also the worst person to invite to an art show because if asked about a painting I'll the extent of my response would be if its pretty or ugly. I'm like a guy in that aspect. I don't pay much attention to those details or any details at all for that matter. If I ever had to describe a criminal for the police so they could draw them out, I don't think I could do it. Now I'd definitely be able to pick them out of a line up, but that was different. (Yes I've thought about stuff like this. I already know I watch too much Law and Order so you can shut up already)
I do however notice if I like the way a person looks or if I don't like it; this guy I liked. I'll try and describe him, but remember, you've been warned. He was a good build, tallish around six foot, six foot one (seemed much taller with him standing up, looking down at me), skinny muscular but not gangly thirteen year-old just got my first growth spurt and I'm totally about to trip over my own two feet. I couldn't tell what color his eyes were except that they were dark. His hair was long with a slight wave to it, but it wasn't the long girly man I-can-put-it-up-in-a-rubber-band hair, yuck. All in all he wasn't so bad on the eyes. Could use some work, but was definite eye candy potential.
I nodded my head pensively as if I was trying to digest some vitally important piece of information and weigh it against some other equally important nugget of information.
"I've heard about you," I stated as gravely as I possibly could. It was quite an accomplishment because even if I can get my tone accurate and believable enough to fit the role I was playing I usually can't help but smile, ruining the act. But nope, such was not the case, not today. Thank my lucky stars and all that's above. Practice pays off. The Best Thespian Ever Award officially belongs to moi.
"Listen I'm- say what?"
"That's right Buckaroo, I've heard about you."
"What have you heard?" He took a step back acting like he was unsure how was wise it was of him to have asked that question and looked as if he wanted to snatch it back at any second. Of course it was the question I'd wanted him to ask. Good boy Bucky, good boy.
Behind my back I discreetly made a thumbs-up sign and then retracted the thumb, our getaway sign, at Big Pimpin and his Hos, otherwise known as Mags and Lizzy. They think he's the cutest little thing since puppies, and they were always all over him. I'm not sure if they realize that he's starting to go through puberty and he doesn't exactly think that girls have el cooties anymore. So that is why we call Jamie Big Pimpin. End of lesson.
I made a quick cursory yet obvious glance around the restaurant, looked up at him as if once again I was in a debate with myself and then decided heck, it was worth it. I gestured for him to come down to my level, and when he looked at me like I was crazy I rolled my eyes in annoyance and gesticulated stronger. Finally, he bent down so I could put my mouth to his ear and tell him the secret. Somehow though, the secret didn't seem satisfying enough. I don't think it ever really did. In fact, I'm almost positive there was never any secret in the first place, so instead I blew a huge raspberry right in his ear.
We all scrambled out of our chairs and bolted for the door. Once I was in the doorway I turned to see Bucky looking weirded out, angry, and confused all at once. It was comical actually. If ever there was a moment when I read a man's mind, it was then. He clearly was thinking: What the fuck? See, I told you. Read his mind.
Maggie and Liz were laughing their asses off as we turned around the corner of the shopping center that Cold Stone was located in. Jamie looked happy to be between two beautiful girls who had their arms slung around his shoulders, but he also seemed a little forlorn at having to leave his unfinished ice cream at the table. Yes, you heard me correctly, unfinished. I wasn't kidding when I said that he ordered the largest thing short of an ice cream cake on the menu.
And me? I was trying hard to look cool, and even though a shimmer of a smile had wormed its way onto my face I liked to think that it would take a very special person to be able to tell that I, a high school junior, had just blown a raspberry in a total stranger's ear. Tee hee hee, I can't help it. I have a very immature sense of humor, and to me raspberries are almost as hilarious as fart machines.
"I can't believe you did that El," Maggie goose laughed. You know those utterly unattractive honking laughs? (yep, still mad even if slightly distracted)
Lizzy sobered up quickly and straightened her shoulders as if she had an epiphany of grand proportions. An indignant look spread across her features, apparently she didn't like whatever she'd just realized. "Hey!" she yelled "I didn't get my ice cream!" she turned abruptly but I caught her wrist.
"No ice cream for you. You're the one who got us kicked outta there, 'member?" I pulled her back around and resumed our walk. Not to mention the hideous picture incident that you're responsible for I thought bitterly, but decided not to voice that because they didn't know about it yet and would no doubt tease me mercilessly if I brought it up. I swear off Red Bull forever.
"It was Maggie's fault too," Lizzy whined, looking pitifully over her shoulder, catching one last glance of Cold Stone before it vanished… forever. For her at least.
"And she doesn't get any either, so there." I stuck out my tongue. Mature I am not.
"Grow up you two," Maggie laughed. Psht, she wasn't my mother. I didn't have to do anything she said.
Lizzy and I turned like a synchronized swim team and stuck our tongues out at Maggie with our right thumbs on our noses and wiggle waggled our fingers.
After walking for a good three minutes, give or take 3.45 seconds, Jamie spoke up, "So, umm… where are we going?"
That was a darn good question.
I exchanged looks with my compadres, and none of us had any idea. I looked around and the answer did a little naked dance right in front of my nose. I kid you not; it was that blatantly obvious.
"We are going to go see a movie" I stated confidently.
"We are?" I shot them an icy artic death glare.
"I mean, we are." Maggie said and Liz nodded.
"Come along Jamie" I stated patronizingly. God, it felt good to do that.
The theater was less than thirty feet in front of us and after a teeny tiny itty bitty argument between which flick to see I approached the ticket box with money in hand.
My eyes locked with dark brown ones and I stopped.
AN: Hola mis amigos! Welcome to the wonderful world of my imagination. Interesting, isn't it? Well, I like to think so, but if you disagree and want to ruin my delusions go right ahead and leave me a review. Constructive criticism is always welcome as well as any comments, critiques, or whatever other C word (except the naughty one) you feel compelled to write down. C ya on the flip side.