Not According to Planbywantsomefun1951©
Aunt Barbara called me one evening. We've been pretty close all my life. She's the one who helped me keep it together when my parents were killed in a hold-up at their little jewelry store. I sure as hell needed my aunt and uncle then. I was an only child, a freshman in college, commuting from home. They did as much as they could to help me through the mess and horror of all that. Even their daughter Rose pitched in. She was the one who did a lot of the clean-up at the store when the evidence guys were done. A gangly young teen, she was the only one with the guts to do it.
I think of Mom and Dad every day, and I'll probably never drive down the street where their store was again. Dealing with all of it meant withdrawing from college for a year. Things are settled now, the funerals and trials are over, and I've moved on. The end result is that I inherited a nice, mortgage-free house, a decent chunk of change, and the freedom to live the way I want. I'm single, living in my own place, and working on my M.S. in computer coding theory, with no school loans and no need for a part-time job.
I'm not wild or completely irresponsible, but I'm a guy. The amount of time many college students spend on a part-time job can, in my case, be devoted to going to clubs and trying to get laid. I'm careful about it, low key. Otherwise, I'm sure Aunt Barbara would never have called.
She said, "We really need your help, Brad. Something great has happened for us, but it's created a problem."
"What's going on?"
"Paul has been offered a position overseas. It's a big promotion, all re-location expenses paid, the works. It's what he's been dreaming of, so obviously, he's going to take it."
"Congratulations! So, you guys are moving?"
"Yes, and that's the problem. Rose was accepted to the local university where you're going. She was going to commute, like you. Now, the dorms are full, and we don't want her living alone in some apartment. She doesn't want to have to beg for late acceptance to some school overseas. So, we have this really huge favor to ask you."
Uh oh. I don't like the sound of this. They've done a lot for me, but.... In my most polite, helpful voice I responded, "What's that?"
"Paul and I have thought about this a lot. Would you allow us to pay rent and expenses so Rose could stay at your house? She'd be able to keep in closer touch with some friends, and we'd feel better knowing she's with family."
Shit. Just what I needed. A teenaged girl for a housemate. Rose is a nice kid, smart and cute and all, but still. BIG change in lifestyle.
"When would she move in?" I asked.
"Paul is leaving the day after she graduates, and I'd like to join him as soon as I can."
"Can she bring her own furniture?"
"She'd like to take some of ours. What room would you put her in?"
"You know I took over Mom and Dad's room, right? So, I guess she can have my old room. It's bigger than the guest room. It's empty, except for some stuff I should get rid of anyway."
"Can we get together to discuss this some time soon?" Aunt Barbara asked.
"Do you want to come over now?"
Half an hour later, Aunt Barbara and Rose were at my door. I was disappointed that Uncle Paul wasn't with them. It was always nice to see him, since he was a lot like my dad. He was working, as usual. My aunt looked like she always did – just as pretty as my own mother, but with dark hair. She had always been like a second mom to me, too.
Since Paul was my father's brother, and they married Barbara and her sister in a double ceremony, Rose and I spent a lot of time together growing up. We always got along, despite the age difference. When she was in third grade, she got hit by a car when she was playing on the street in front of her house, and spent a lot of time at home in casts, eventually making a full recovery. I rode there on my bike to keep her company almost every day, which usually meant playing with her toys or watching girly cartoons. I didn't mind, since she seemed happy. This was the kid that loved to play hide-and-seek with me when we stayed at each other's houses when one set of parents took a night for themselves. As a young teenager, she sought me out after my parents' funeral, so that I, a grown man, would have someone to cry with.
Rose always looked more like my mom than her own, with her ginger hair and fair skin, but she looked different than I remembered her. Now that Mom and Dad were gone, I didn't get together with Barbara, Paul, and Rose as much. I hadn't seen her since Christmas, and we were now halfway through Spring. Maybe that's a long time at her age. I kept thinking of her as a little girl, since I met her before she could walk. Cute little cousin Rose was turning into a very attractive young woman, more beautiful than Mom and Aunt Barbara ever were. As a kid, Rose always wore her long hair in braids or a ponytail, but now it was brushed out, it's fullness threatening to cover one eye and reaching far down onto her chest.
She seemed nervous. I wondered if she felt as awkward about this arrangement as I did.
"Let me show you what I thought we could do," I said, leading them upstairs. "This is the guest room. You could have that, but it's pretty small. I thought I'd give you my old room. It's probably bigger than your parents' room at home, so all their furniture should fit. You'll have your own bathroom down the hall, since there's one in my bedroom for me. The closet is big, and you have some nice windows." I opened the door and motioned them inside.
"What do you think?" Aunt Barbara asked.
"It's nice," Rose said, in a tone that showed she didn't mean it.
"What's your favorite color?" I asked her.
"I'll paint the room for you. This green is pretty bad."
"It was your mother's favorite," Aunt Barbara scolded.
"I know. Half her wardrobe was green, or had green trim or something. She just had to paint a room green, and I was a kid when she did it, so I didn't get to choose. After they were gone I moved into their room. I didn't know what to do here, but I repainted the trim and ceiling, and I was going to paint the walls, but I got side-tracked. The room needs paint. It can be whatever color Rose wants."
"Hmmm." My cousin turned slowly to study her new space. "If I do all the edging, can we make it two-tone?"
Friday after dinner, I went to her house so we could go paint shopping. Heaven knows what the names were for the colors she chose, but she was thrilled with them. We agreed to paint on Sunday, which gave me Saturday to clear out the rest of my junk, wipe down the walls, and patch nail-holes.
Bright and early Sunday morning (in college-speak, that means before noon) someone was ringing my doorbell. Some of my friends had hung out late the night before helping to clean up from a little party we had, so I wasn't at my best. Half asleep, I assumed it was someone who had left something behind. "Coming! Coming! Shit! Quit ringin' the motherfuckin' bell, asshole!" I yelled as I stumbled down the steps.
Standing on the porch were Aunt Barbara and Rose. "Nice mouth," my aunt said. "Do you think you might want to put some clothes on?"
That was when I remembered that all I was wearing was yesterday's boxer shorts.
"Sorry," I said. "What time is it?"
"After nine. You told us to come over in the morning. Remember?" Aunt Barbara asked.
Rose pretended to not look, but her eyes kept coming back to the center of my body.
Trying to clear my head, I said, "Yeah. Yeah, sure. Come in. Sorry, I mustn't have set my alarm."
"You have a funny way of greeting guests," Aunt Barbara grumbled.
"Why don't you two sit in the living room for a couple minutes while I get ready," I said, leaving them in the foyer and dashing back upstairs.
"Brad, I need to run. Text me when you want me to pick up Rose," Aunt Barbara called after me.
I was drying off from a fast shower when Rose knocked on my bedroom door.
"Brad?" she called. "Is it okay if I change clothes in the hallway bathroom? I don't want to risk getting paint on what I'm wearing."
"Sure, no problem. It's your bathroom, now," I hollered through my door. "All the painting stuff is in your new bedroom. I'll meet you there."
I was double-checking the tape on the drop-cloths when she walked in. She had exchanged her shoes, jeans, and top for a pair of grungy sneakers, cut-off blue jean shorts that probably were tight on her a couple years ago, and a white t-shirt, so old and thin that it allowed me to see her lacy little bra clearly. Her ginger mane was pulled back and stuffed through a well-worn pink baseball cap. Damn!
"Wow, with your stuff gone, this room looks huge," she said.
Somehow, I kept a poker face and spoke in a normal voice. "It's a decent room. The cable and internet hookups are over there, between the windows."
"Brad, you don't know how much this means to me."
"What? Taking you in? Your parents are paying me, you know."
"Yeah, but even so,..."
"Look, your mom, dad and you are the only relatives I have left. Your parents are like a second family to me, now that my folks are gone. So, I probably would have let you stay here even if they weren't paying me."
"Should I tell them that?" she giggled.
"Whatever doesn't go toward your part of the grocery bill is yours."
"For real? Cool!"
She moved around the room, inspecting my repairs and looking at the view from her windows. "Do you have a lot of friends that come over?"
"Not a lot, but yeah, people visit sometimes."
"Guys or girls?"
"Why are you asking me this?"
Rose gave me an exasperated look. "I'm not THAT much younger than you, so I can guess what you do, okay? I don't want to get in the way of a party of YOUR friends or be a cock-blocker, so you'll have to let me know when to be quiet and stay out of sight. I feel kinda funny about living with some guy, even if he is, like, an older brother figure. I've never lived with anyone near my age. It's always been just me, Mom, and Dad."
"Remember, I'm an only child too. I don't know if that's good or bad. Some of my friends can't stand their younger siblings."
"Same with mine. Why is that?" she asked.
"I don't know. Maybe it's from having to help take care of them when they were babies or something. After all, how do you love someone who peed on your lap when you were a kid?"
Rose blushed. "Did I ever do that to you?"
"Not that I remember. If you had, I wouldn't let you live here. Now, which wall gets which color?"
Rose was very good at cutting-in (that's painter-talk for edging around the corners, moldings, and ceiling). I couldn't help noticing what her legs looked like when she was on the step-ladder. Not just her legs, either. The areas that ancient denim struggled to cover looked pretty nice, too.
Everything needed two coats of paint. With the help of sandwiches and delivered pizza, we worked non-stop into the evening. Finally, we were done.
I stood back to admire our handiwork. Rose joined me.
"This room is awesome. You have a good eye for color, Ginger," I said.
"Ginger? Don't ever call me Ginger, okay? I hate that stupid nickname. My name is Rose. You can call me Rose, or cuz, or kid or pretty much anything but Ginger!" She turned away in a huff.
I shouldn't have done it, but I couldn't help myself. I wiped some paint off a roller with my finger. "Sorry, Ginger."
When she spun around to confront me, I put paint on her cute nose.
"You bastard!" she laughed. "I'll get you for that. Some random time, I will SO get you for that!"
"Bring it. I'll break you in half."
Rose put her hands on her hips. "I want to get along with you, to live together as friends, okay? But I can take care of myself."
I grabbed her by her sides and hoisted her up to eye-level, the pale skin of her torso warm in my hands where her shirt rode up. "I know karate, judo, aikido, and several other Japanese words. Like I said, bring it, Ginger."
Then she did something I didn't expect. She rubbed her paint-smeared nose on mine. I put her down, and we laughed like fools. When we had ourselves under control, she said, "What are your rules for me?"
"Hmmm. Clean up your own mess. Don't drink out of the milk or juice cartons. Use headphones when you wanna play shit like Justin Bieber. If my bedroom door is closed, I'm either changing clothes, want my privacy, or have company. That's pretty much it. What do you expect from me?"
"You could hand me a clean paint rag."
As we cleaned the paint from our faces, she said, "Please don't be my like my parents. I'm a big girl now, you know? I can make my own decisions."
"Like, everything! How I dress, who I hang with, my bedtime, my phone bill, all that."
"You understand that your folks are making me responsible for you. Your folks and I are signing papers naming me as a sort of custodian for you so I can get you emergency medical care and put your car on my insurance, stuff like that. To me, that means I have at least some say in your behavior. You can't be banging a different guy in here every night."
"Brad!" she scolded. "That's not what I meant! All I'm asking is if I'm going to have a set bed time on school nights like I do at home."
"No, as long as you're quiet, we'll be fine. We'll make this fun, and we'll respect each other's needs. All right?"
Her hug was her answer.
Rose's graduation was a big event. She was now out of high school, an incoming college freshman, and her parents were leaving her the next morning. The women cried a lot, and Uncle Paul claimed his allergies were kicking up.
The next day, she moved in. I was prepared for the idea of bringing a lot of heavy furniture upstairs. What I didn't expect was the number of cartons of books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, and shoes this girl had, and I sure as hell didn't expect Uncle Paul to just dump a lot of her shit in the living room and say, "I have to return the truck and meet Barb, so I gotta go. Thanks, Brad. We'll call when the plane lands. I love you, Angel!"
With that, he was gone.
"Bye, Dad," Rose said to the closed door.
I felt sorry for her, but I didn't know what to say. She turned and looked at me, and I could see the tears about to spill. Just as her lower lip started to quiver, I pulled her in for a hug. She clung to me for a minute, gathering herself as I stroked her long, beautiful hair.
Finally, she moved away from me and managed a smile. "You're going to get me through this, just like I tried to help you when your parents died. I guess this is the start of chapter two of my life."
"I'll do what I can to make it enjoyable for you, cuz."
She hugged me again, and then we stood, grinning at each other, surrounded by girl junk.
It took us a while, but we managed to get all her things upstairs. I worked at setting up her flat-screen, PC, and X-box, while she filled drawers with clothes. When I had everything connected properly and booted up, I turned around to see her carefully re-folding some nearly transparent panties.
She glanced my way and blushed. "This is going to be an adjustment."
I sat on her desk chair and gestured to her bed. "I know. Let's talk about this for a minute. Sit down, please."
She sat on the bottom edge of her bed and hunched forward. This had the no-doubt intentional effect of causing her hair to hide her one eye. She does it all the time, like a ginger-haired emo chick.
"Rose, I don't want this to be awkward between us. I'm your cousin. But I'm also a guy. I'm not going to pretend that you're not a cute girl, because you are. Do you have a boyfriend?"
"I did. I broke up with him. Couldn't take the drama," she said.
"No. Guys are assholes."
"Maybe that's because chicks can be bitches," I said. "That's why I'm single at the moment."
"People say I can be a mega-bitch," Rose giggled. "Just ask my ex."
"Seriously, I'm only talking to you about this because I don't want to invade your privacy. We're both going to need some space here. Your folks gave me a list of rules, but I don't really care what you do as long as you don't call me for bail money."
"I don't get in trouble!"
"Don't get expelled from school."
"Brad, I've been on the Honor Roll since kindergarten, and if you remember, I was Valedictorian last night."
"I don't want to see you on the evening news."
"Duh! I'm not stupid and I don't do drama."
"Don't get pregnant."
She blushed visibly, but kept her defiant teenage tone. "I'm on the pill to help with my periods, if you must know."
"Too much information, but fine. In return for giving you enough rope to hang yourself, I'm going to ask you to respect my privacy and not tell people everything I do. Is that fair?"
"Very fair." She got up, kissed me on the cheek, and went back to folding pretty little things.
Instantly, I felt myself thicken. What the fuck? Okay, it's been a little while, but really?
It only took a few days for us to establish a routine. I'm a much better cook than she is. She cleans much faster than I ever did, and gets the place spotless. Household chores and preparation for the upcoming semester took up a lot of our at-home time, and often, I didn't see Rose much after dinner.
On Friday night, neither of us had anything to do. "Wanna watch a movie?" I asked.
"I get to pick," she answered.
"'Cuz I'm cuter," she smirked. She chose "The Blue Lagoon," that old Brook Shields flick, made way back when she was still an incredibly hot girl of questionable age. As we watched the movie, I realized that Rose had a figure very much like Em did just before she and Richard found out how babies are made.
When the movie was over, Rose said, "I'm tired. I'm going to take a shower and go to bed."
"All right. Maybe I'll see what's on TV. I'll be quiet in case you're asleep."
After some serious channel-surfing, I decided there was nothing I felt like watching. The water sounds had stopped in Rose's bathroom some time earlier, so I thought she was in bed. Noiselessly, I made my way upstairs, just in time to see Rose walk down the hall to her room, wearing a towel. It was wrapped around her torso, but her bottom was completely exposed. My God! This was my cute kid cousin. She wasn't supposed to have an ass like that!
I stayed frozen in place at the top of the stairs for at least fifteen minutes after the last sound I heard her make. Then I tiptoed down the hall, went in my room, and closed the door.
Saturday was a day of running around. Rose wanted to get some new eye make-up, and I had some errands to do, so we made a day of it. That was the first time we had been together outside the house. We enjoyed ourselves, talking, laughing, and just getting to know each other better. I didn't think anything of the fact that we were walking together, close to each other, until we approached some teenaged boys.
They leered at Rose.
"Do you know those guys?" I whispered.
"No. They didn't go to my school. See what I mean about guys being assholes?" she whispered back.
As we walked past, the one smart-ass said, "She's pretty young for you, dude."
There were three of them, but I hoped if I humiliated the one with the mouth, the others would fold. Putting on my best tough-guy face, I turned to him. "Excuse me?"
"I said, she's kinda young for you. Is she a good lay?"
"I wouldn't know. She's my cousin."
The punks started laughing. "Sucks to be you, dude," Mouth said.
"Brad, let's go. Come on," Rose hissed, grabbing my hand and pulling me away. "What the hell? Are you nuts?"
"Did you hear what he said?"
"Yeah. So what? You've been out of high school too long. That's why I said guys are assholes."
"No wonder there's so much fighting in schools these days," I grumbled.
"It's okay. Really. Thank you. That was cute," she said, still holding my hand as we walked to my car.