Kerri made herself comfortable on Lina’s sofa as her sister changed clothes in the other room. She called over her poodle, Corky, to join her on the loose-back sofa. While one hand stroked the dog’s soft, white fur, the other stroked the blue Ultrasuede fabric covering the sofa’s rolled armrest. She couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of her younger sister—this sofa was nicer than her own. The one-bedroom apartment their father had set Lina up in was also worthy of Kerri’s jealousy—spacious, freshly painted, hardwood floors and crown moldings, all-new kitchen appliances and a fenced, private garden beyond the glass sliding doors. If Kerri didn’t love her sister so much, she could almost hate her for the privileges she enjoyed by virtue of being Daddy’s favorite. Kerri couldn’t help but wonder how her life might have been different had she had been born the pretty one.
“When’s he picking you up?” Kerri called out.
Lina shouted her reply from her bedroom: “In thirty minutes!”
“Do you know where he’s taking you?”
“No! Just that we’re having dinner! Is it too late for me to back out?”
“Yes! It would be rude! Why would you want to back out, anyway?”
“Just having second thoughts! It’s only been three days since Vaughn tried to break in!”
“Then a hot date is just what you need to take your mind off it!”
“I’m not so sure about that!”
“If you don’t go out with him, I will!” yelled Kerri, as she removed her hand from the armrest to stroke Corky with both hands.
“What about Wade?” asked Lina.
“Then why do you stay with him? You could do so much better!”
Kerri laughed. “Yeah, sure! Look at me, who else but Wade could love me? Hell, even Wade acts like he doesn’t love me most of the time!”
“I love you! And so does Corky!”
Kerri pulled Corky up from her lap and kissed his face. He licked her cheek and rested his tiny paw on the tip of her nose. She kissed him again, then snuggled him in a gentle embrace.
“Are you almost done?” yelled Kerri.
Kerri remembered her first date with Wade. How excited she was those five long years ago to have met her blue knight, and the flurried courtship that swept her off her feet and made her feel like she’d won the stud-muffin lottery. Her life was so full of promise and hope back then. And now? Kerri buried her face in Corky’s fur.
Lina called out from the bedroom, “I’m ready!”
“Come on out! Let me see!”
Lina emerged from the bedroom, her hair styled into a sophisticated French twist, makeup tweaked to perfection, and wearing the new outfit she’d bought at Goldwaters. She stood anxiously before Kerri and Corky, both of whom gave Lina an appraising once over.
“What do you think?”
Corky barked his approval. Kerri hesitated, overcome with emotion. She saw her younger self in Lina, the girl she once was before meeting Wade, a girl fresh-faced and rosy-cheeked whose whole life lay ahead of her like an endless road paved with nothing but high expectations and the prospect of unlimited dreams. She hoped against hope for a better life for her sister, for a future not quashed and crushed by so much bitter disappointment.
“Well? How do I look?” asked Lina, her voice rising with anxiety.
Pulling Corky to her chest, Kerri wiped a tear from her cheek. She felt she might burst with all the love and pride she felt at this moment for her younger sister. “You look so…” The emotion stoppering her throat made it hard to continue.
“So what?” cried Lina, throwing up her hands in exasperation.
Kerri cleared her throat. She beamed at her sister, then at last replied, “So goddamn beautiful.”
Kerri’s words were exactly what Lina wanted to hear. A look of girlish satisfaction spread across her face “Really?”
“Yes, really,” said Kerri. She looked at her watch. “God, I’d better vamoose. Your date will be here any minute.”
Lina glanced nervously at her own watch. “Shit, it’s almost eight!”
With Corky under her arm, Kerri quickly collected her purse from Lina’s dining table and rushed to the door, stopping only long enough to give her little sis a one-armed hug before departing. As she headed out the door, she threw out a bit of sisterly advice:
“Have fun, and remember: No screwing on the first date. Make him wait until at least the second,” she said, winking.
“I was thinking more like the tenth date,” said Lina, then, as an afterthought, “What about kissing?”
Outside, at the street curb, Kerri gave Lina’s question a brief consideration before climbing into her Bronco and shouting out the car window, for all in the neighborhood to hear:
“Kissing’s fine, but don’t let him stick his tongue—or anything else—in your mouth!”
Lina slammed shut her front door, hiding her embarrassment from her neighbors.
Inside, Lina began to quietly giggle, then laughed out loud. Her date, the drop-dead gorgeous Mario Cazzo, would be there at any minute, arriving in his horse-powered chariot, ready to whisk her off on a night she’d only heretofore dreamed of.
Lina licked her lips, reveling in the sensation of her wet and stippled tongue as it ran across the soft flesh of her lips. She closed her eyes and imagined that her tongue was Mario’s. The mere thought of his tongue on her lips…mingling with her own tongue…slipping inside her mouth…set her loins on fire.
Lina loved her sister but to hell with her advice. If Mario Cazzo wanted to stick his tongue in her mouth, that much Lina was eager and willing to allow. Anything else he might want to stick in her mouth, or anywhere else, could wait until the tenth date…or the ninth…or the eighth.
The sound of a car pulling up outside derailed her imaginings. “He’s here!” she squealed, as she scrambled to smooth her hair, find her purse, and unbutton the bottom two buttons of her skirt. Sucking in her breath, she opened the door. As she stepped out to meet him, one last thought bubbled up from her loins:
Okay, maybe the seventh date.