The Lil' Orange Rabbit; that's what it was, and it was mine. Incredibly, I'd passed my test. I guess the officer didn't want to admit that he nearly caused an accident. I didn't complain.
I had my car and my license. We were out driving, just to burn up gas.
"Tammy," I said to my first passenger ever. "Do you know that no single word in the English language rhymes with orange?"
"I was just thinkin' that." She was getting better about replying to remarks like that with sarcasm rather than 'shut your dumb-ass up'. "How many words are there in English?"
I pulled onto the highway.
"About three-quarters of a million."
"And not one rhymes with orange. Why do you think that is?"
"Because it's a loan-word from Sanskrit, and we borrowed none of its homonyms."
"I have a better theory."
"Share it, please."
"Who gives two shits what rhymes with orange? Did you look up every single one of them?"
"No," I admitted.
"Then how do you know?"
"Are we arguing about a color, Tammy?"
I slowed down for a bunch of rubberneckers looking at an accident on the other side of the median.
"Hirlfriend, I know something more exciting than 'orange' has happened to you in the last twenty-four hours. Spill it already!"
"Yeah," I teased. "I got my license and Dr. Spock won the election."
"You know what I mean. Tell me about your date!"
"Well, he picked me up in a car, and took me to a neighborhood full of fancy restaurants."
"That's good. Hit's willing to spend a buck or two."
"But then we stopped in his neighborhood; do you know he has a sister?"
"No, be for real!"
That always sounded like 'beef or eel' to me. Someday I was gonna answer 'eel', just to see what she said.
"It is real, girl, and she look just like Christy at the party."
"Damn, do you think it was her? The one you told all that stuff to?"
"I don't know, and Topher won't tell. Christy said she was Topher after the party broke up, but now I'm not sure. I'm not happy about that."
I passed through the jam and pulled into the left lane.
"Damn. So then what?"
"His sister was the valet, the maître d', and the waiter. She was dressed for the part and they played it to the hilt. Hit kept slipping her cash like it was American Tire Money—well, some of it was. She kept it too."
"What the hell?"
I looked at the speedometer. Sixty; better slow down.
"Hit cooked for me. Spanish and it was incredible.
"Then he showed me a film. Dinner and a movie, he told my folks."
"A home movie. A collage of stills and film, of his whole family. Hit was an adorable little girl."
"Wow, did you bring your dower chest?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Just that you two seem to be hitting it off."
"What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing. Git your kink on, hirl!"
"Kink? I don't have any kinks; I'm kinkless. I am, in fact, a cure for kink."
She looked out the window.
"You got that right. So Cinderella, did you get back before his car turned back into a punkin'??
"I stayed the night!"
"Say what? Did he drug you folks? Poison darts maybe?"
"No, it was icy and I was asleep. They let me stay."
"Jeezus Christ, Dani, who the hell are you?"
"I'm me, Tammy."
"Well, you ain't actin' like you. So what happened? Let me guess—nothin'."
"Don't you dare tell me that, your bestest friend in the whole wide-world, or I'll kick yo' ass."
"You better be...what happened?"
"We slept together."
I was still nervous about tractor trailers and two of them were approaching, running bumper to bumper, in the fast lane. I dropped it to fifty and let them pass.
"And what? I got in bed on one side, he took the other. We said goodnight and slept. In the morning we got up. What's there to tell?"
"Well, I hope you used a condom."
She was funning me; I could play too.
"Four of them." I held up four fingers.
I just shrugged. Let her figure it out herself.
"You swear? Izzat true?"
"Cross my heart, hope to die."
"And your folks didn't shit fire-bricks?"
"No, they said it was okay. Of course I've barely been home since."
"Wow! It's a crazy world, Dani, and you're at the center of it all."
"Tammy," I asked, looking around at the empty fields and billboards. "Where the hell are we?"
Mother was happy because I could now take Gina to her dance classes. She saw me as a valuable resource. Gina saw me as a co-conspirator.
"I did it again," she told me on the way to practice with no shame at all.
"Dammit, Gina, don't spring shit like that on me when I'm driving. Did you use a fucking condom this time?"
"Yes we did. He called them 'rubbers'. But I wasn't upset at all."
"Aren't you worried that you might be pregnant?"
"Yes, but not worried that I might be more preggo from having protected sex."
"That makes an odd kind of sense."
"It doesn't make a bit of sense. But it's right for us. I really liked it this time. We went into the salon and did it while the others were in the showers."
"Damn, Gina, you're serious about this, aren't you?"
"Yes, we belong together."
"Why, because you dance together?"
"You don't understand, Dani. It's magic when we dance. You should see us."
"I have, hon, and it's beautiful. But I don't want you to get hurt. He's a boy, and boys are hoglets."
"He's a gentleman, and a gentle man. We harmonize across many octaves. We are gonna dance together professionally."
"I wish you all the luck in the world, Gina, but you'd better be sure about this. Your whole life could be ruined by a poor choice now."
"That's right, Dani, it could. But it is my choice. I'm making it; I already have. Sanjin loves me and I love him. We are gonna get married, when I'm old enough. He's already asked me. But we will use protection from now on, until we're in our marriage bed—I promise."