Spin The Bottle
(A Dominic Valentini and Katelyn Anderson flashback)
by Genevieve Dewey
Fourteen years ago
“Hey, Motor Mouth!”
Katelyn continued walking, her arms pumping, hands balled, and her eyes squinted in a fine line. This was the second week in a row that Dominic had followed her home from school. True, they lived next to each other, but he always took a separate route there (usually to avoid her brother Kyle). But lately Kyle had taken to staying after school with Kandace, who was always in trouble for something or another.
So really, there was no reason in the last two weeks for Dom to follow Kate and her—hopefully—boyfriend Humphrey. The whole way he would mock poor Humphrey’s name—he couldn’t help his name could he?—until Humphrey had refused to walk with her anymore.
She figured Dom would stop following her then, but no, here he was. At least next year he’d be off at Roncalli Catholic high school. It’d be hard to follow her home when he attended school in Omaha. She grimaced at the realization that the year after that she’d be attending Roncalli as well, and knowing their mothers, they’d probably have to carpool together.
“Come onnnnn, Skate…”
Katelyn swiveled on her heel and placed her fists on her hips.
“I…Told…You…To…STOP calling me that!”
Dominic ran a hand through his floppy curls—the only almost fifteen year old boy she knew who could have curls and still seem cool—then he grinned. His polo shirt was askew, as usual, and the rest of his school clothes looked like he’d probably just done something fun and terribly against the rules (for which he’d be forgiven–he was just a Valentini boy being a Valentini, after all). He took a few more lazy strides to catch up and mimicked her hands-on-hip stance. She complemented her glare with a pathetic sneer–pathetic because she sort of wanted to laugh at his superman pose. Dom had that effect on her, and it was one of the many things she hated about him. It was not natural or normal for a person to dislike another person the amount she disliked her obnoxious neighbor and yet he always knew how to get a laugh or smile out of her.
“Ok, I’ll stop calling you Motor Mouth. It’s your stupid brother’s nickname anyway,” he drawled.
“Kyle is not stupid! And I meant Ska—”
“I was just wonderin’ if you wanted to come to my birthday party Friday night?” he interrupted in a lightning fast jumble.
She raised her eyebrows.
“I always come to your birthday parties, remember? And you come to mine. Because our moms are BFFs and we have no choice in the matter,” Katelyn replied, her nose in the air, and an impatient foot tapping. “And I thought it was on Saturday at two?”
He gave a carefree shrug and a lopsided grin but his eyes were on her front. She looked down at herself. Did she have a ketchup stain or something?
“No, I mean, my sister—you know how she just got her license? Well, she said she’d drive me and a few friends to Omaha this Friday night to watch hockey for my birthday. She’s going to just drop us off at the rink and go meet up with her friends, and she promised not to tell Mom because she’s cool like that. So I’m calling that my real party. Kandace is going. She said we can hang out at her friend Grace’s afterward.”
“Oh,” she said awkwardly.
That was possibly the longest thing Dom had said to her since she broke her arm after taking his dare to pop a wheelie on his skateboard. He had written her a horrible poem, horrible even for a nine year old. He called it ‘Ode to Skate’ and recited it to her after she got back from the hospital and his mother made him come over to apologize. It was really bad yet really funny. Which was basically Dom in a nutshell. But ever since he’d hit puberty he had been more prone to witty one-liners and snarky set-downs and avoiding her… until the last few weeks.
She frowned. How come Kandace hadn’t told her anything about this party? What good was it having a sister so close in age if she was going to keep stuff from her? Apparently she was just good for borrowing clothes. Katelyn shifted her feet and narrowed her eyes again. She wouldn’t put it past Dom to be playing some sort of prank on her.
“Won’t Demetria have to check in? I can’t imagine your parents will let her have the car the whole night.”
“Naw, you know how it is. Mom and Dad pretty much let her do whatever she wants.” His voice held resentment.
She shook her head. He resented how his sister had so much freedom, but speaking as the often overlooked kid in the large Anderson clan, she would love to have the amount of focused attention Ramona and Vincent Valentini lavished on Dominic. The newly budding feminist in her also felt bad that Demi was overlooked not because she was one of many like Kate was, but because of the Valentini crime of not having a penis. In fact, newcomers to the community often went months before learning the Valentinis had a daughter that was how much they forgot to mention her while they extolled Dom’s virtues to all that would stand still.
“Well… still… I don’t want to break any rules…” Katelyn began to say.
Dominic rolled his eyes and snorted.
“We’re not,” he drawled condescendingly. “We have permission to go into Omaha with Demi. We are actually going to watch hockey. I thought you liked hockey?”
“I do! I just don’t want to get into trouble, that’s all. We’re going to be in high school soon. Stuff like that goes on your permanent record.”
“Stuff like what? What record?” he asked, looking confused.
She noticed his eyes had made their way back to her front only lower this time. She was starting to feel self-conscious. She crossed her arms and his gaze rose to hers again.
“You know, your college resume? If you want to get the best scholarships to the best schools you have to have a flawless record.”
His mouth dropped slightly and his brow furrowed.
“I was actually thinking about studying my practice National Merit Exams this Friday,” she continued. “And you probably don’t want someone a year behind you tagging along anyway.”
His confused expression cleared up.
“Naw, that’s alright. Like I said, your sister’s coming and everyone knows you two hang out a lot. And that new kid Andrew is coming. He’s in your grade. Just no inviting Kyle, ok?”
“’Kay…” she replied softly. Her eyes were starting to hurt from keeping them narrowed for so long. She sighed. “Why are you being so nice to me?”
“What’d’you mean? I’m always nice to you. We’re friends.”
It was her turn to drop her mouth in confusion. Friends? They hadn’t been friends since grade school. Friendly neighbors, yes. Constantly forced into celebrating holidays and birthdays together by their mothers, yes. But the way she saw it, that made them more like… like… distant family or prisoners in the same jail or something.
“Anyway,” he paused with a huge grin and tapped her shoulder with his fist. “Rumor is we’re gonna play Spin the Bottle at Grace’s after the game, so better practice your pucker, Skate.”
He laughed and sauntered off down the block. She stared at his back for a full minute.
He had to be kidding, right?
All through the Lancers game he kept bending forward from two spaces over and making kissing faces, sending the boys next to him into gales of laughter.
Jerk, she thought. He had obviously just invited her to be entertainment for his friends.
She nudged Kandace in front of her. Kandy turned around, looked between them and threw an ice cube from her drink at Dom.
“Quit it, moron!”
The boys started laughing even harder until the people behind them said,
“Shut it, dumbasses!”
Their equally scathing reply was lost in the dun dun dun dun of the hockey rink organ and the surge of the crowd as the Lancers almost scored. The boys completely forgot about her and started dissecting the play and the ice and the wobble in the puck and blah, blah, blah.
Katelyn sighed. She liked hockey, but not that much. She mostly liked it when the players got into a fight and the Zamboni guy shot hotdogs. And to think, she could be home reviewing her P-SAT words with a nice pint of Ben & Jerry’s…
It didn’t get any better once they arrived at Grace’s on the west edge of town. It was practically her bedtime yet everyone was jazzed like it was midafternoon. Katelyn stifled a yawn and jumped a bit in guilt when she felt Dom’s hand on her back pushing her through the door to Grace’s large family playroom. She looked at him, expecting a snide remark but he just flushed a bit and dropped his hand like she had cooties.
There were four people sitting in a circle around a Ouija board. Each of them had a bowl of popcorn and M&Ms in front of them.
“Hey! We started without you guys! Come pull up a patch of carpet,” a girl with jet black hair a few years older said.
“I’m Grace,” she continued nodding at Katelyn then pointed at the others in the circle. “This is Tommy, and Cam, and Mindy.”
Dom waved and pointed to Kate and Kandy.
“This is Katelyn and Kandace, they’re my neighbors. And you guys already met Hayden, Andrew and Jaxson.”
“Me and Kandy’ve met Tommy before,” Katelyn said with a smile for her Aunt’s best friend’s son.
Tommy gave her a quick, shy smile then looked back down at the floor.
Grace nodded. “I’m technically babysitting him, but me and Tommy have agreed that’s bananas since he’s practically twelve. Easy money for me, right, Tommy?”
He laughed so softly at the ground it almost sounded like a sigh.
“You staying, Demi?” Grace asked.
“Sure,” Demi said in a bored mumble then flopped down next to Grace.
She was still going through her Emo phase, which was not quite Goth, more like Goth-Lite. All of the black wardrobe and morose demeanor, none of the Morrissey and facial piercings.
“Ouija boards are dumb,” Hayden said. “Thought we were going to play Spin the Bottle?”
Dom nudged him. Grace and Demi looked at each other, eyebrows raised.
“I don’t care if we play Spin the Bottle,” Cam replied, looking amused.
He grinned at Grace causing her cheeks to flush. She brushed her long hair behind her ears.
“I think Ouija boards are fun!” Katelyn interjected. “And we all just met each other. It’d be a little weird to play a kissing game.”
“What’s the matter, Skate, you chicken?” Dom asked with a huge grin.
His posse started making chicken sounds. She raised her eyebrows and pressed her lips together.
Boys were soooo predictable.
She felt Kandy’s hand on her elbow.
“That’s the point, baby sister,” Kandy hissed in her ear, “to get to know each other?”
Dom and his friends started arguing about who was spinning first. Once everyone sat in a cramped circle, Katelyn prayed under her breath that the bottle wouldn’t rest on her. But fate was not on her side, because the instant Dom had a turn, the bottle spun right to her. If she didn’t know any better, she’d think he did it on purpose.
Kandace pushed Katelyn towards the door and everyone started laughing again.
“Go on. Two minutes,” Kandace said loud enough for everyone to hear, then leaned closer to whisper in Kate’s ear. “Just remember not to hold your breath.”
“What?” Kate whispered back, but Dom yanked her hand and shut the door.
The closet was dark and cramped, as closets were supposed to be, and Kate thought whoever invented the game of Spin the Bottle had to be a man because no girl would find it even remotely romantic. Dom’s hands fumbled on her until he found her face. When she could feel his breath on her face she leaned forward and to the side to give him a quick peck on the cheek.
“There. We can go back out when the timer goes off and you can say we kissed.”
He was silent but his face never moved away from hers.
“Dom?” she whispered.
She sucked her breath in as she felt his lips brush hers softly. It tickled with a prickly rush that made her want to rub her lips to make the odd sensation go away. But she never got the chance; his lips met hers again only firmer. The tingle went away, replaced with wetness and pressure.
It… didn’t feel bad at all, but, it still felt… weird. Especially weird because it was her first kiss and she had never figured she would have her first kiss with the same boy who had potty trained with her.
She felt his tongue prod her mouth and she pushed him back.
“Dom!” she whispered as forcefully as she could.
“What?” he whispered back.
“What was that?”
“It’s called French kissing…”
“I know what it is, Dominic!” she retorted in a stern voice. “We’re not actually making out, were just supposed to pretend to!”
He was silent again. Then…
“We… we are?”
“Well, duh, Dom! We’re friends, like you said. Or were you just saying that and now you’re going to make fun of me with your friends?”
“I… no, I mean… yeah we’re… I mean no, I’m not going to…” he trailed off.
His hands left her arms and they felt cold from where his sweaty palms had been.
“Time!” yelled voices from the other side of the door.
Kate popped up and almost tripped over Dominic in her haste to get to the door. She breathed a huge sigh of relief after she opened the door. He stood up and rubbed his hands on his jeans. He looked pale and distracted.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
He looked up from the floor and flashed a quick grin, though he still seemed preoccupied. He shrugged.
“Sure. Think I just ate one too many hotdogs at the rink.”
He brushed by her and gave two thumbs up to Andrew. The boys guffawed—even little Tommy!—making Katelyn flush with embarrassment. She shot them all a furious frown and deliberately sat as far from Dominic as she could.
Kandace tilted her head and looked between them then shared a quick look with Demi who rolled her eyes dramatically.
“I’m not playing anymore,” Katelyn said.
Her comment was greeted with a mixture of laughter and jeers.
“Hey, don’t make fun of her! She just doesn’t want to tarnish the memory of me,” Dom said with a smirk and traded high-fives with his posse.
“Or you were just that bad,” Kandy teased.
“Ooohh, ouch,” Grace laughed.
Dom glared at her but his grin slipped and he shot a quick look at Katelyn. Kate began to feel bad; it was his birthday after all…
“I’m sorry. I’m just not comfortable kissing strangers. Dom’s a friend so he doesn’t count,” Katelyn said with her chin in the air.
“Ouch,” Grace said again.
Katelyn couldn’t figure out why. Or why Dom was starting to look mad.
“I have to have the car back by midnight, so if we could wrap this up?” Demi half drawled, half whispered. She looked like she could just waste away from ennui.
Katelyn had to give her credit, whenever Demi was in a new phase she went whole hog with the part. The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful, but when Kate got in bed that night she thought about Dom and how, in retrospect, it was a really nice thing to invite her. She vowed to thank him properly the next day at the family birthday party. The only problem with that was, Dom pretty much avoided her the entire time.
And come Monday, he didn’t follow her home. She was both disappointed and relieved. When he continued to avoid her for the next few weeks, she began to think he hadn’t meant it about being friends or she had hurt his feelings. On the third week, instead of reviewing SAT words at lunch with her friend Tracy, she wandered over to the cubbie holes where the boys hung out.
“Hi, Dominic,” Kate said shyly.
All the boys stared at her with dull eyes. Dom smiled a bit but he looked wary.
“Oh, I was just saying hi.”
The boys started snickering. Katelyn flushed.
“Ok,” Dom said, eyebrows raised.
“Ok,” she replied.
Dom nodded, eyebrows rising even farther. Her flush deepened.
“Actually, I was just wondering if you were going to my Track meet on Thursday?” Kate threw out, hoping to salvage her pride.
Dom shrugged but his face went back to normal and he sat up a bit.
“If football practice is over, I could maybe stop by,” he said.
His friends all went back to looking bored, except the new kid Andrew.
“Are you two going together?” Andrew asked.
“Nah,” Hayden answered for Dom without looking up from his sketch pad. “Dom’s dating Cindy Mancini, where you been?”
Dom nodded but he looked at his shoes.
Katelyn’s flush began to feel like the worst sunburn she had ever had. She had been worrying about hurting his feelings and the truth was he was just busy with his new girlfriend. She smiled brightly showing as much teeth as she could without looking like a horse.
“Yeah, we’re just neighbors and friends, right, Dom?” Katelyn replied.
“Right,” Dominic concurred without looking up.
He seemed bored again as he started unfastening and fastening the Velcro on his sneakers. She thought he maybe even looked a bit sad, but figured she was imagining things, because on Thursday—and every practice after, even at Roncalli—he showed up at Track practice and cheered the loudest.
— Copyright 2013, Genevieve Dewey.