Gentle Art Of Making Enemies
Missy tensed as the telephone rang, her fork paused above her plate.
Cliff looked up from the comics. "Aren't you going to get that?"
She set down the fork. "Aren't you? It's probably your girlfriend."
He brightened and picked up the cordless. "Hello? Hey, Tor," he said as he walked to his seat. "Sure, she's right"--he glanced up to see Missy shaking her head and drawing her hand across her throat frantically--"in the shower." He shifted, curling into the phone. "Yeah, so did I. Hey, you okay? You sound a little off." He frowned and stood. "No, I mean, sure. Okay. Love you. Bye." He hung up the phone and returned to his comics.
Missy finished eating her pancakes before asking as casually as possible, "What did Torrance want?"
Cliff shut the paper and shrugged. "You."
Missy coughed, spraying orange juice over the table. "What?"
Cliff attempted to brush the juice off the paper. "You didn't have coffee this morning, did you?"
"She wanted to talk to you. Only you, I guess," he added, faintly sour. "Why didn't you want to talk to her?"
"No reason, really," Missy lied, her hand nervously rising to her neck.
"Is that bug bite bothering you?"
He smirked. "Must have been a kissing bug--looks like a hickey," Cliff joked and Missy nearly choked on air. "In fact, if I didn't know about you and Les' 'business partnership,' I'd bet that's what it is."
"Well, you'd bet wrong, 'cause I haven't sucked face with anyone." She stood. "I'm going upstairs."
"Mis," he called at her back, "what about your plate? I'm not loading the dishwasher. Missy!"
Torrance smoothed her top and rang the doorbell. She waited, shifting from foot to foot, and listened as someone banged down the stairs and over the linoleum.
Cliff opened the door. "Hey, Tor." He stepped back to allow her inside. "Did the bubble bath help your feet?"
"Yeah," she said, accepting his welcome kiss. "Is Missy here?"
"I think she's in the--" He stopped himself, wincing.
"Shower. Yeah. She always did take a shower every three hours."
"Well, you know Mis, a bit OC." Cliff laughed at his own joke and rocked back on his heels.
"Is it okay if I go up and wait for her?"
"Sure," he agreed and followed her to the stairs.
Torrance stopped and turned. "Is it okay if I go up and wait alone?" she asked, giving him a reassuring smile.
Cliff shrugged. "I guess." He pointed toward the living room. "I'll be in there if you need me or anything. Want to talk, maybe minor cuddling, whatever."
She smiled again. "Thanks."
Missy returned to her room to find Torrance studiously examining the posters on the wall, back pointedly turned. She closed her eyes for a moment, realizing that there was no way to further starve off a confrontation, and began to dress.
"Long shower," Torrance remarked.
Missy shrugged, chin against her throat as she buttoned her fly. "Screw water conservation, I always say." She pulled on a tank top. "You can turn around now."
Torrance sat on the edge of the bed; Missy chose the relatively safe territory of her chair. Missy flipped her damp hair behind her shoulder. "I'm sorry that I didn't take your call."
"What do we do?"
Torrance rolled her eyes. "Oh, excellent plan."
"Look, I may have started things but I'm just as clueless as you." Missy stood and began to pace. "Cliff's my brother and will be for the rest of my life. I can't just--my parents were once head over heels and they barely speak to one and other now. Love doesn't last." She glanced at Torrance. "Or lust."
"We can't go back." She looked down to inspect her nails and continued in a softer tone, "Or at least I can't." She closed her eyes for a moment. "I'm not saying that we should move forward. I don't want to hurt Cliff, but I--I want you." Torrance looked up and chuckled. "I just wish that I'd gotten hit with the clue-by-four earlier. It would've been awkward, but this...this is dysfunctional."
Missy smirked. "You win Most Uplifting Analysis. And," she added, stepping closer, "I want you, too. Just--not as a 'friend with benefits' who is also my brother's girlfriend. And even if you two weren't dating, he couldn't know."
Torrance rose from the bed, frustrated. "The 'excellent plan' is certainly coming along." She sighed and shook her head, trying to focus on the situation and not on Missy's lips. "Do we ignore it? Wait for it to go away?"
"Yeah," Missy agreed, edging forward. "It will, eventually."
"I guess we should avoid each other until that happens," Torrance said, not avoiding Missy at all.
They kissed, Missy's hands sliding down Torrance's back and pulling her close. Torrance wrapped her arms around Missy's neck as she sought and was granted entrance into the brunette's mouth. Suddenly, her brain reengaged.
Torrance pulled back. "We can't do this. My boyfriend is downstairs and we're up here rounding the bases."
Missy lifted a hand to rub her eyes. "I know. We don't want to hurt him."
"Then we need to find some willpower."
Her hand settled back on Torrance's ass. "Not finding any?"
Missy smiled despite herself and leaned in for another kiss.
Cliff turned off the Cartoon Network and walked upstairs to check his e-mail. He paused outside Missy's door, then shrugged and opened it. "The fuck?"
Torrance rolled onto her feet and clutched her shirt closed. "Cliff."
Missy sat up, holding her tank top protectively over her bra. "Cliff."
"What the fuck is going on?"
Missy found her voice first. "We were...kissing."
"Yeah, no shit, Mis." He nodded at her. "Put your shirt on."
She pulled the tank top on as Torrance buttoned her shirt. Missy stood and reached out. "Cliff--"
"I fucking knew it. I knew that the way you looked at her was--looked at her with those dark 'fuck me' eyes." He began to pace. "How long has this been going on, anyway? Before Nationals, right? 'Be aggressive' when you were fucking around behind my back. All those away games, all those competitions. Shared hotel rooms, shared beds. 'Oh, poor Cliff, he's just for show, just so that I can be the All-American girl.' 'Oh, but I'm a cheerleader.' I bet that protest buckled pretty quickly, huh, Torrance?"
She took a step forward, mimicking Missy's earlier pacifying gesture. "Cliff--"
"Fuck." He drew a hand across his eyes. "Just--fuck. All this time I've been such a goddamn fool."
"No," Missy insisted.
"Since when, then? When did you two start fucking me over by fucking?" He snorted. "Ah, irony."
"Prom," Torrance said quietly. "The cloakroom."
He laughed again. "Mosquito. Yeah. Way to fucking go, Torrance, telling me that you loved me after shoving your tongue down her throat."
Torrance looked away. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean...I didn't want to hurt you. I--I fucked up, okay? I should never have done this."
"Necking with your boyfriend's sister and getting caught, I can see how that would be considered a fuck-up."
"It's not like I meant to fall in love with her!"
Both Pantones stared at Torrance. "What?" Cliff managed.
"Holy shit," Missy breathed, unable to contain the stunned smile that spread across her face.
"It just happened."
"I have to get out of here," he said and thundered down the stairs.
The two girls stood silently, listening as keys scraped against Formica, doors slammed shut, and a car roared down the street. Missy sat on the bed and buried her head in her hands.
The phone rang. Les looked between the erotica on his monitor and the receiver, then decided that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon would have to wait. He checked the caller ID before answering. "Hey, Mis."
"We got caught."
"Torrance came over to talk about what happened, we kissed, Cliff walked in, a shouting match ensued, and then he took off. It's been hours and he's still out there and I just need to talk. She said--she said that she loves me. And Cliff...I don't know if he'll ever forgive me."
Les leaned back into his chair, eyebrows high on his forehead. "Mis, wow. I don't know what to say."
"And I don't know what to do. Wait--It's Cliff. He's back."
"Missy," Les called into the phone, then swore at the dial tone.
She walked into the foyer as the front door opened. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, I bet." Cliff looked around. "Where's your girlfriend?"
Missy sniffed the air. "Are you drunk?"
He closed the door and struggled with the deadbolt for a moment. "Yep. Went over to Tommy's, 'cause, y'know, just 'cause we're all recovering from prom doesn't mean it's not Saturday night. Had a few beers, talked to a girl, got blowed. Much like your evening, except for some ana-anatom--'cept you don't have a dick."
"I can't talk to you when you're like this."
"Yep." He headed for the stairs. "G'night."