“Ooh, Remy,” Chloe said, noticing this too, “your man has a groupie.”
“He’s not my man,” I said, taking a sip of my beer.
“Remy’s with the band,” Chloe told Jess, who snorted. “So much for that no-musicians rule. Next thing you know she’ll be on the bus and selling T-shirts in the parking lot, showing off her boobs to get in the stage door.”
“At least she has boobs to show,” Jess said.
“I have boobs,” Chloe said, pointing to her chest. “Just because they’re not weighing me down doesn’t mean they’re not substantial.”
“Okay, B cup,” Jess said, taking a sip of her drink.
“I have boobs!” Chloe said again, a bit too loudly-she’d already had a couple of minibottles at the Spot. “My boobs are great, goddammit. You know that? They’re fantastic! My boobs are amazing. ”
“Chloe,” I said, but of course then it was too late. Not only were two guys standing nearby now completely absorbed in checking out her chest, but Dexter was sliding in beside me, a bemused look on his face. Chloe flushed red-rare for her-while Lissa patted her sympathetically on the shoulder.
“So it is true,” Dexter said finally. “Girls do talk about boobs when they’re in groups. I always thought so, but I never had proof.”
“Chloe was just making a point,” Lissa explained to him.
“Clearly,” Dexter said, and Chloe brushed a hand through her hair and turned her head, as if she was suddenly fascinated by the wall. “So anyway,” he said brightly, moving on, “‘The Potato Song’ really went over well, don’t you think?”
“I do,” I said, moving in closer as he slid his arm around my waist. That was the thing about Dexter: he wasn’t totally touchy-feely, like Jonathan had been, but he had these signature moves that I liked. The hand around my waist, for one, but then there was this thing that made me crazy, the way he cupped his fingers around the back of my neck, putting them just so, so that his thumb touched a pulse point. It was so hard to explain, but it gave me a chill, every time, almost like he was touching my heart.
I looked up and Chloe had her eye on me, vigilant as ever. I shook off these thoughts, quick, and finished my beer just as Ted came up.
“Nice work on that second verse,” was the first thing he said, and not nicely, but in a sarcastic, snarky way. “You know, if you butcher the words you do the song a disservice.”
“Butcher what words?” Dexter said.
Ted sighed, loudly. “It’s not that she was a vegan princess, living off of beans. It’s she’s a vegan princess, living off beans.”
Dexter just looked at him, completely nonplussed, as if he’d just given the weather report. Chloe said, “What’s the difference?”
“The entire world is the difference!” Ted snapped. “ Living off of beans is proper English, which brings with it the connotation of higher society, accepted standards, and the status quo. Living off beans, however, is reminiscent of a more slang culture, realistic, and a lower class, which is indicative of both the speaker in the song and the music that accompanies it.”
“All this from one word?” Jess asked him.
“One word,” Ted replied, dead serious, “can change the whole world.”
There was a moment while we all considered this. Finally Lissa said to Chloe, loud enough for all of us to hear (she’d had a minibottle or two herself), “I bet he did really well on his SATs.”
“Shhh,” Chloe said, just as loudly.
“Ted,” Dexter said, “I hear what you’re saying. And I understand. Thanks for pointing out the distinction, and I won’t make the mistake again.”
Ted just stood there, blinking. “Okay,” he said, somewhat uneasily. “Good. Well. Uh, I’m gonna go smoke.”
“Sounds good,” Dexter said, and with that Ted walked away, cutting through the crowd toward the bar. A couple of girls standing by the door eyed him as he passed, nodding at each other. God, this band thing was sick. Some women had no shame.
“Very impressive,” I said to Dexter.
“I’ve had a lot of practice,” he explained. “You see, Ted is very passionate. And really, all he wants is to be heard. Hear him, nod, agree. Three steps. Easy cheesy.”
“Easy cheesy,” I repeated, and then he slid his hand up to my neck, pressing his fingers just so, and I got that weird feeling again. This time, it wasn’t so easy to shake, and as Dexter moved closer to me, kissing my forehead, I closed my eyes and wondered how deep I’d let this get before ducking out. Maybe it wouldn’t be the whole summer. Maybe I needed to derail it sooner, to prevent a real crash in the end.
“Paging Dexter,” a voice came from the front of the club. I looked up: it was John Miller, squinting in the house lights. “Paging Dexter. You are needed on aisle five for a price check.”
The redheaded girl was back at the stage, right up close. She turned her head and followed John Miller’s gaze, right to us. To me. And I looked right back at her, feeling possessive suddenly of something that I wasn’t even sure I should want to claim as mine.
“Gotta go,” Dexter said. Then he leaned into my ear and added, “Wait for me?”
“Maybe,” I said.
He laughed, as if this was a joke, and disappeared into the crowd. A few seconds later I watched him climb onstage, so lanky and clumsy: he tagged a speaker with one foot, sending it toppling, as he headed to the mike. One of his shoelaces, of course, was undone.
“Oh, man,” Chloe said. She was looking right at me, shaking her head, and I told myself she was wrong, so wrong, even as she spoke. “You’re a goner.”
“I thought this was a cookout. You know, dogs and burgers, Tater Tots, ambrosia salad.” Dexter picked up a box of Twinkies, tossing them into the cart. “And Twinkies.”
“It is,” I said, consulting the list again before I picked a four-dollar glass jar of imported sun-dried tomatoes off the shelf. “Except that it’s a cookout thrown by my mother.”
“And,” I said, “my mother doesn’t cook.”
He looked at me, waiting.
“At all. My mother doesn’t cook at all.”
“She must cook sometimes.”
“Everyone can make scrambled eggs, Remy. It’s programmed into you at birth, the default setting. Like being able to swim and knowing not to mix pickles with oatmeal. You just know. ”