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10


Chelsea's parents are out; her little brother's staying with friends. Patti and Katie sit at the table. Patti helped prepare the pizza, and they’ve invited her to stay awhile. Chelsea puts her arms around Katie and kisses her. Her parents keep a homey place, painted in rustic colours, kitchen filled with rural accouterments, metal saucepans hanging from the walls.

Patti lives with her mother; her mother's old physics professor sends child support from Toronto. She knows Chelsea's family far better than her own. But here's Katie, and she's become the part of Chelsea's life that Brad and Cassandra never did. Sometimes, now, Patti feels alone.

"You could really start something," opines Patti. "Most of the schools in the county have GSAs these days. It would be cool if we did, too. I mean, being out at school's not a really big deal anymore."

"Oh, not for you," says Katie.

"You hang with a bunch of jock guys. They'll think it's hot."

Chelsea laughs, and Katie smiles, but she says, "Not a big improvement. It's more the girls I hang with. The girls on the team.... I don't know, Patti. I'm not ready yet."

"I think there'll be more controversy over the fact that you're dating Chelsea."

"What? Everyone loves Chelsea." She reaches out strong arms and gives her a hug, and they exchange a kiss redolent with pesto and garlic.

"Yeah. Everyone loves me." Chelsea verges on hysterical laughter. She moves an arm, and the plastic bands and bangles around her wrist slide and jangle.

"I'm sure they do, Chels, but you're my best friend."

"She has a point," says Katie. "People are actively afraid of you, Patti."

"You do a couple of hacks...." She quickly adds, "Allegedly."

"Allegedly my ass."

"No illegal activity on my part has ever been proven."

"Which proves it's you." Katie picks up her next piece of pizza.

"I wouldn't worry about the team. I mean, seriously, you think you're the only dyke on our girls basketball team? Because I seriously doubt you're the only dyke on our girls basketball team."

Katie twists her mouth into a crooked smile.

"She comes with the package," says Chelsea.

"I'm sure she can barely contain her joy."

This girl has a place in Chelsea's life to which Patti can never aspire, despite their long history. She's tried to assess Katie, basketball star and athletic council girl, someone who (Chelsea confirms this) posts motivational quotations on her bedroom wall. Chelsea revels in their differences, the tech girl and the jock. When she discusses their relationship she invokes (unwisely, Patti thinks) Romeo and Juliet. She writes a love poem, of sorts. "You'll think it's cheesy," she told Patti, when they were making the pizza.

"The probability's high." She stopped chopping a moment, listened attentively. Our hearts build a silent bridge wasn't half bad. "At least you didn't say, rainbow bridge."

"Oh, I like that," Chelsea said, sky-eyed.

Patti leaves after dinner, hobbles down the sidewalk, the taste of garlic and pesto and cheese strong beneath the glaze of the strawberries they had for dessert. Her breath freezes under streetlights.

She took three years to learn to walk.

Patti is a patient girl.


11

sweetiepet: Not much new this week.

Magus: Almost got a shot of this fat lady like, really fat, Gelatinous Cube fat. Catching her breath in a stairwell. Couldn't do it without her seeing me. Almost couldn't get down to the rectory cuz she was so fat and slow and blocked the fuggin stairway.

sweetiepet: Wait, rectory?

Magus: I understand being a lil heavy, but this cow must have someone hold her cheeks apart when she shits.

sweetiepet: Wait, a CHURCH rectory? YOU go to a CHURCH???

Magus: It's my mother's church! I do volunteer work there.

sweetiepet: Oh.

sweetiepet: Wait, you volunteer at a CHURCH?

Magus: Pretty funny, right? I started a couple months ago, helping with their
website. Makes ma happy.

sweetiepet: Awww.

Magus: Also, she cooks once a week.

sweetiepet: of course she does.

Magus: When I visit her! I have my own place. Anyway, when can we meet? The public place, Grand Bend?

sweetiepet: Busy this week. We’ll make plans tho. After the recent suckitude in my life, we have to do this.

Magus: Awesome!

sweetiepet: It's what I need right now.


12

The kids in his high school used to hit Grand Bend often; it sits about an hour away, up the shore. He has taken shots there, with his pen camera. He's never seen the place off-season, and hopes the two of them won't be conspicuous.

Kirt packs a bag, things he will need. His emotions shift, open and then minimize, like windows on the screen. He sees versions of her, Googlepics of hot bespeckled nerdchicks. His mind brims with anticipation at the end to his digital quest, and awards to be clicked and gathered. It's what I need right now.

He can give her what she needs.


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