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Kevin and the Gang: In-Between
Mood Slime


It was Sunday afternoon and Kevin was catching up on some homework in the home office. He heard the phone ring and thought about going to answer it, but he returned his attention to his work when the phone went silent after three rings. A short time later, Carl appeared in the home office.

'There's someone on the phone for you, Kevin,' he said.

'Who is it?' said Kevin.

'I'll give you three guesses,' Carl said dourly.

'Is it Oscar?'

'Yes.'

'I'll take it in the hall,' said Kevin.

Carl went back to the living room, where the television was switched on and waiting for him. Kevin followed his father as far as the hall, where he picked up the receiver on the main telephone.

'Okay, Dad, I've got it!' he called into the living room.

Kevin heard the sound of Carl returning the phone extension to its carrier, then he put the receiver to his ear.

'Hello?' said Kevin.

'Hey, dude,' Oscar's voice replied. 'I just wanted to let you know that I'm gonna be doing something after school on Friday, so I'll be a little late coming over to your place... or maybe I won't make it at all. You'll be able to cope without me, won't you?'

'I think I can just about manage,' Kevin laughed.

'All the others will be there, right?'

'Actually, no. Lucy's doing something with her family, and Jandro has a chess club thing.'

'I thought chess club didn't meet Fridays anymore.'

'They don't normally, but they're taking part in some kind of inter-school tournament one Monday in the near future – I think it's two weeks from tomorrow – and they need to discuss their tactics. So I guess it'll just be me and Michael and Ella on Friday.'

'Yeah, I guess so,' said Oscar. 'Ella will probably be hoping for a spit-roast.'

'Shut up, you're terrible!' Kevin giggled. 'So, er, what's the big rush to tell me about Friday right now? I mean, it's not that I'm not enjoying talking with you, but you could just as easily have told me at school sometime this week.'

'I... I want to give you some details about what I'm actually gonna be doing on Friday after school.'

'And what actually are those?'

'I'm gonna be holding auditions for my band in the main music room,' said Oscar. 'I've cleared it with Mr Walton. You see, I've managed to line up two paying gigs for Mood Slime. Not that either of them is paying very much, but...'

'Are you kidding me?' said Kevin. 'That's fantastic news, man!'

'Yeah, I guess it is,' said Oscar. 'The first gig is a week from Saturday at the mall. I managed to persuade the mall manager to agree to move the cheese and sausage cart to one side for twenty minutes so that we can play a few songs, and we get to keep the tips... if there are any.'

'Wow, that's excellent!'

'The second gig is even better. It's after school the next Monday – the same time as Jandro's chess tournament, I guess – and we're actually being paid a fee for playing at some kid's birthday party.'

'Oh my God, that's incredible!' said Kevin. 'Congratulations, bro! How many new band members are you looking for? You already have a couple of guys, right?'

'That's right,' said Oscar. 'Danny Hart from my class has agreed to play the drums for me, and we've got Tim Price on right-handed lead guitar.'

'Oh yeah, I know Tim,' said Kevin. 'He's the same grade as me but he's in a different homeroom. So I guess you're gonna be playing left-handed lead guitar, huh?'

'Naturally,' said Oscar. 'Me and Tim are gonna stand at the front so that we look exactly like the Beatles! And hopefully we'll sound as good as them too, someday. But anyway, yeah, we just need to get someone to help out with the vocals and play bass guitar, then we'll be all set. I'm gonna put up flyers all around the school tomorrow at recess.'

'You have math before recess, right?' said Kevin.

'Yeah,' said Oscar.

'I'll come find you and help you with the flyers.'

'Thanks, dude. I, er... I was actually wondering if you might want to consider... I mean, I know you might not be interested, but...'

'But what, bro?'

'Do you maybe want to audition to be in the band?'

'What?' said Kevin, unable to stop himself from laughing. 'I can't play bass guitar – I can't play any kind of guitar!'

'I meant as a singer,' said Oscar. 'We could always recruit two new band members – one to sing and one to play bass guitar.'

'But I can't sing anymore, man,' said Kevin. 'I'm Aled Jones now, remember?'

'You still sing beautifully, bro.'

'I don't – I sound like a bear that's being strangled by a python!'

'Oh well, it's just a thought,' said Oscar, laughter evident in his voice. 'Maybe you'll mull it over a little before Friday, huh?'

'Well... maybe,' said Kevin. 'Anyway, thanks for calling, bro. I'll see you at recess tomorrow, okay?'

'Sure thing, dude,' said Oscar. 'Ciao for now.'

Kevin put the phone down and went back to the home office.

*

Kevin had barely taken up his pen and returned his attention to his homework when he heard the phone ring again. As before, Carl stomped into the room a short time later.

'It's for you again!' he said peevishly.

'Really?' said Kevin, sounding very surprised. 'It's not Oscar again, is it?'

'Sorry to disappoint you, but it's not Oscar!' Carl snarled. 'It's some kid called Michael. And when you're done talking with him, maybe you could answer the phone yourself if it rings again? I'm not your God-damned answering service!'

'I was going to answer it myself both times, Dad,' said Kevin, 'but you got there first. There's no extension in here, remember?'

Carl muttered something disagreeable and returned to the living room. Once again, Kevin followed him as far as the hall. He picked up the phone, listened for the sound of his father disconnecting the extension, and then put the receiver to his ear.

'Hiya, Mike,' said Kevin.

'Hi, Kev,' Michael's voice replied. 'My mom brought home her latest supermarket shift schedule yesterday and I wanted to run a couple of things past you.'

'Oh yeah?'

'Yeah. The first thing is that she's gonna be working 'til eight on Friday, so I decided to invite Ella to come over to my place after school and have dinner with me.'

'Ooh, a romantic evening for two. Ella's the lucky one, huh?'

'I'm the lucky one, Kev. Anyways, I called her before I called you and she agreed to come over Friday, so I'm afraid we're not gonna be able to come to your place like we were planning. Sorry.'

'Oh, don't worry about that,' said Kevin. 'I hope the two of you have a great time together, Mike.'

'Thanks, Kev,' said Michael. 'The other thing is that the next Friday after that – a week after this coming Friday, I mean – my mom has to work the night shift, so I was wondering if you'd maybe want to have another sleepover with me?'

'Sure, I'd love to,' said Kevin. 'Do you want to see if we can destroy the entire apartment?'

'Don't joke about that, Kev,' said Michael, laughing nevertheless. 'I have a heart attack every time my mom goes anywhere near that wall!'

'We'll be sure to be extra careful this time,' said Kevin. 'Anyway, yeah – I'll definitely come and spend the night with you, Mike. I'm looking forward to it already.'

'Good; so am I,' said Michael. 'I'll get the snacks in and find us a cool movie to watch.'

'Excellent,' said Kevin. 'It's a date. Well, I guess it's not exactly a date, but you know what I mean.'

'Yeah, I know what you mean, Kev. See you in homeroom tomorrow.'

'Ciao for now, dude.'

As Kevin replaced the receiver, Carl appeared in the hallway with a slightly sheepish look on his face.

'Kevin, I'm sorry if I was a bit rude to you just now,' he said. 'I'm feeling a little stressed about my interview tomorrow, but I know I shouldn't be taking it out on you.'

'That's fine, Dad; don't worry about it,' said Kevin. 'They'll make you a full detective for sure – I just know they will!'

'Thanks, son,' said Carl. 'You, er... you're sleeping over with Michael again, huh?'

'Yes, Dad,' said Kevin. 'On Friday next week. That is, not this coming Friday but the one after that. His mom's working the night shift at the supermarket and I'm gonna keep him company, like before.'

'It's just gonna be the two of you at his place, all night?'

'Yeah.'

'Michael's the one with the girlfriend, right?'

'Yeah, that's right.'

'Good,' said Carl. 'I mean, um...'

'I know exactly what you mean, Dad,' said Kevin. 'I have to get back to my homework now.'

Kevin turned tail and stalked out of the hallway. Carl stared after him for a few moments, then he returned to the living room.

*

The following Friday after school, Michael and Ella made their way towards the music block.

'You're definitely gonna come back to my place after the audition, right?' said Michael.

'Very few things in this world are actually definite, Mike,' said Ella. 'You'll just have to wait and find out, won't you? Or did you want to head home and I'll maybe join you there when I'm ready? Unless I decide to go over to Kevin's place after all, to see if he wants someone to play chess with him or something.'

'What?' said Michael. 'No, I'll wait for you!'

'I'm only kidding, babe,' said Ella, frowning ever so slightly. 'Of course I'm coming back to your place after the audition.'

'Are you only gonna sing for them or are you offering yourself as a bass guitarist as well?'

'I'm auditioning for vocals and bass guitar. You remember how I learned to play guitar in fifth and sixth grade, don't you? That weird hippy guy used to come in at lunch recess on Thursdays and take me, Rosemary Haddon and Jonathan Scott into the TV room and teach us to play the guitar.'

'Yeah, I remember,' said Michael. 'The guys used to say he was probably doing you all in the butt one after the other.'

'Guys can be so stupid!' said Ella.

'I never said it,' said Michael.

'Yeah, I didn't think you would've,' said Ella. 'They say it's exactly like riding a bike, don't they?'

'They do?'

'Yeah. As in, you never forget how to do it. Playing a musical instrument, I mean. Once you start practising again, obviously.'

'Oh, I see. I thought you meant... well, never mind about that. Don't worry, Ella – you'll knock 'em dead and they'll be lucky to have you!'

Ella smiled at Michael and stroked his cheek, then she opened the door to the music block and led the way inside. The door to the main music room was closed; Ella went to peer through the small glass panel.

'There they are,' she said. 'Looks like they're auditioning someone else right now.'

Michael came to take a look; Ella sidled out of his way.

'They're all boys!' he exclaimed. 'I didn't realise all the band members would be boys!'

'Now Mike, we're not gonna have to go through all this again, are we?'

'Um... no. No, of course we're not. I'm sorry, Ella.'

'You don't really think I'd ever drop you for someone else, do you? Mike, I don't want someone else – I want you!'

'I know,' said Michael.

'Okay,' said Ella, 'so let's not have any more of this jealousy garbage, huh? Anyway, it's only Oscar and a couple of his friends.'

'Oh yeah, that's right,' said Michael. 'Yeah, I'd never be worried about Oscar making a move on you.'

'You wouldn't, huh?'

'Not in the least.'

'Just out of interest, why not?'

'Well... he's gay, isn't he?'

'What?' said Ella, unable to stop herself from laughing slightly. 'Where the hell did you get that from?'

'I... I thought we all kinda knew it,' said Michael. 'I mean, I thought we'd all just taken it as read... haven't we?'

'Not me,' said Ella. 'Still, I guess he is kinda... but that doesn't mean he's necessarily... not that it matters either way, of course, but...'

The music room door burst open and the previous auditionee stormed into the corridor, looking more than a little affronted. Tim came to the door a few seconds later.

'Next, please,' he said. 'Oh... there's only two more of you, huh?'

'Only one more of us,' said Ella. 'He's with me.'

'I'm her boyfriend,' said Michael, drawing himself up to his full height and staring daggers at Tim.

'I guess you'd better come in, then,' Tim said to Ella. 'I hope your boyfriend won't mind waiting outside.'

'Of course he won't,' said Ella. 'See you in a few, Mike.'

Ella followed Tim into the music room and slammed the door in Michael's face. Oscar looked up from playing around with his guitar strings and adopted an expression of surprise.

'Ella?' he said. 'You've come to audition to be in Mood Slime?'

'Why else would I be here?' said Ella. 'There's no problem, is there? Your flyers didn't say this was a sexist band for boys only!'

'That's because it isn't,' said Danny.

'Are you auditioning for vocals?' said Oscar.

'Yes,' said Ella, 'and for bass guitar as well. The only thing is, I don't actually have a guitar.'

'That's okay,' said Oscar, 'you can use Tim's old one. Does, er... does Michael know you're doing this?'

'Yes; he's right outside the door,' said Ella. 'But he doesn't control my life, you know!'

'Yeah, I know,' said Oscar, 'but I was slightly worried that I might have him coming up to me in the restroom on Monday and threatening to beat the crap out of me. Not that I'm saying he necessarily could, but... well, it's good to know that the whole situation isn't on the cards, all things considered.'

'I guess I can't blame you for feeling that way,' Ella said with a smile, 'but it's not an issue, I promise. So, where do you want me?'

'Come on up to the stage,' said Tim, 'and we'll see how you and my old guitar get along with each other.'

*

'How did it go?' said Michael, as Ella emerged from the music room.

'Pretty well, I think,' said Ella. 'I enjoyed myself, anyway.'

'So are you in the band?'

'They're discussing that right now.'

'I hope they won't take too long over it,' said Michael, glancing at his watch.

'Why are you so desperate to get me back to your place?' Ella asked, with a small smile.

'Because I want the two of us to... spend some quality time together,' said Michael. 'I've been looking forward to it for ages.'

'That's very sweet of you, Mikey. It's okay; I think Tim's coming now.'

Sure enough, Tim came out of the music room and peered up and down the corridor.

'There's no one else waiting to audition, huh?' he said.

'What does it look like?' said Michael.

'That settles it, then,' said Tim. 'Ella, you're in the band.'

'Yes!' said Ella.

'I hope you don't think you're doing her a favour by letting her in 'cause you don't think you're gonna find anyone better!' Michael snarled.

'That's not it at all, Michael,' said Oscar, appearing in the doorway behind Tim. 'We all agreed that we really wanted Ella in the band, but we'd have to listen to anyone else who wanted to audition, seeing as they'd bothered to show up. But as no one else has bothered to show up, we can tell Ella the good news right now and then pack up and go home!'

'Ella, you can make the mall gig next Saturday – a week from tomorrow, I mean – and the birthday party the Monday after that, can't you?' said Tim. 'And like I mentioned before, we've booked this room for practice sessions every lunch recess next week from one o'clock.'

'Don't worry,' said Ella, 'I'll be there for all of it – I can't wait!'

'Neither can we,' Oscar beamed at her.

'Can we go now?' said Michael.

'Of course,' said Ella.

*

Kevin heard the doorbell, dragged himself off the couch and went to open the front door. His face lit up when he saw Oscar standing on the other side.

'You came!' said Kevin.

'Yeah, I did,' said Oscar. 'We only had three people to audition so it hardly took any time at all... and I was always hoping I'd be able to come over after we were done, of course. Can I trouble you for a Go-Gurt? I'm famished.'

'You can have all the Go-Gurts you want, man,' Kevin grinned at him. 'Here, let me take your guitar.'

A short time later, Kevin and Oscar were sitting side by side on the couch, both sucking on a Go-Gurt.

'You decided you didn't want to launch your singing career today, huh?' said Oscar.

'Yeah, I did,' said Kevin. 'But it's not that I definitely never want to be in your band, bro. I mean, I'm not saying no, not ever – I'm saying not right now, thanks very much for the offer.'

'Fair enough,' said Oscar.

'Did you find what you were looking for?'

'Yeah, we did. We found Ella, and it turns out she's exactly what we were looking for!'

'Oh, wow,' said Kevin. 'I had no idea Ella was interested in music.'

'Neither did I, but she's absolutely perfect,' said Oscar. 'She can hold a bass line like no one I've ever heard before, and she sings like a professional... which I guess is exactly what she'll be from next Saturday!'

'Does she sing better than me?'

'It's not better, exactly; it's just different.'

'I guess no one can casually write you off as just another boy band now, huh?'

'Yeah, I thought of that too. I was secretly hoping to get a girl all along.'

'Just for the purposes of the band, you mean?' Kevin grinned.

'Yeah,' Oscar laughed, 'just for that.'

'Was Michael there?' said Kevin. 'With Ella, I mean. I know they were supposed to be going back to his place this evening.'

'Yeah, he was there,' said Oscar, 'and they went off together afterward.'

'And so it's just the two of us here,' said Kevin.

'Yeah,' said Oscar. 'It's, er... it's not that I don't absolutely love it when we're all hanging out together as a gang, 'cause I do, but... well, I'm kinda glad that it's just the two of us here right now, you know?'

'Yeah,' said Kevin, 'I do know. So, should I get the chess out?'

'That'll do for starters,' said Oscar.

*

Michael piled up the used crockery and cutlery and carried it over to the sink.

'I'm sorry the toast was a little burned,' he said.

'Don't worry about it, Mikey,' said Ella. 'It was really great toast.'

Michael smiled, dumped the dirty things into the washing-up bowl and then went through to the lounge and sat down on the couch.

'Aren't you gonna do the dishes?' said Ella. 'I thought you were too house-proud to leave them festering in the sink.'

'I'll do them before my mom gets home,' said Michael, 'but there's some other stuff I want to do first. Why don't you come over here and sit with me?'

'Okay,' said Ella.

Ella came through to the lounge and sat next to Michael, who immediately started to kiss her.

'What's this for?' said Ella, when she could breathe again.

'Does there have to be a special reason?' said Michael. 'Let's say it's to celebrate you getting into Oscar's band, if there does.'

'That's quite a celebration,' Ella remarked.

'Of course,' said Michael. 'After all, this is quite an occasion.'

With that he kissed her again, then he started to slide his hand underneath her top.

'Mike...' said Ella, giggling slightly.

'Just relax, babe,' said Michael. 'Let me show you how pleased I am for you, huh?'

*

'Do you want to call it a stalemate?' said Oscar.

'Um... not really,' said Kevin.

'You'll never get me now, dude,' Oscar grinned. 'We'd better just call it a stalemate and congratulate each other on a very well played game.'

'But I know I can get you with a rook and a king,' said Kevin. 'I just can't remember how!'

'That makes the game a stalemate,' said Oscar.

'Give me ten more moves and then I'll give up.'

'Okay.'

*

Ella pulled away from Michael and frowned slightly.

'Mike, we really shouldn't,' she said.

'I know,' said Michael, 'but I really want to! Don't you?'

'I... I don't know,' said Ella. 'I mean, yeah, I do want to, but...'

Michael whipped off his T-shirt and then reached out to stroke Ella's cheek. Her mouth dropped open slightly as her eyes focused on his right arm.

'This isn't fair,' she giggled. 'You know I can't make rational decisions when I'm transfixed by your biceps.'

'Sure you can, babe,' said Michael. 'It's just that my biceps are helping you to think more clearly.'

'Well, I... I guess we do have a good reason to celebrate,' said Ella.

'The best,' said Michael. 'So, let's celebrate until we can't celebrate anymore!'

*

'That's seven, dude,' Oscar grinned, as he moved his king a little too close to a corner.

'Yeah, I know,' said Kevin, his eyes suddenly lighting up. 'I'm never gonna get you now, but we might as well just take another three moves each.'

Kevin moved his king so that it was two squares away from Oscar's. Oscar frowned, and made the only move he could make. Kevin cried out in triumph, then he whipped his rook all the way down the board so that it was in line with Oscar's king.

'Checkmate!' Kevin declared.

'Fuck!' Oscar laughed. 'I knew I had to stay away from the corners, but for some reason I didn't!'

'Now you've lost,' Kevin grinned, 'and you have to be punished!'

Oscar squealed as Kevin collapsed on top of him and hurled him down into a horizontal position on the couch.

*

Ella fell back into a horizontal position on the couch and darted her lips upward to meet Michael's.

'You're absolutely sure your mom's not gonna come back?' she said.

'Yes,' said Michael. 'We still have more than two hours, and that should be plenty of time.'

'I'll say!' said Ella. 'Okay, let's do it.'

*

There came a tremendous crash as Oscar's shoulder slammed into the TV and caused it to skew to an angle of forty-five degrees on its stand.

'Crap!' Kevin exclaimed, dropping Oscar onto the floor with a thud. 'It's not broken, is it?'

'I don't think so,' said Oscar, propping himself up on one elbow. 'Maybe we should stop now, huh?'

'Had enough, have you?' Kevin grinned.

'I didn't say that,' Oscar grinned back.

Kevin took a moment to straighten the TV, then he found himself tumbling across the floor with Oscar on top of him. They screeched and laughed and clawed at each other, then Kevin slammed his knee into Oscar's stomach and pinned him to the floor.

'Oh my God, my Go-Gurt's coming up!' Oscar giggled.

Kevin laughed, slammed Oscar's shoulders into the floor several times and then said, 'Stay the night.'

'Okay,' said Oscar. 'You'll have to let me up so I can call my mom.'

'Sure,' said Kevin. 'I'll lend you my spare pyjama bottoms, and you can get a ride back with my mom in the morning when she goes out to do her weekly grocery shop.'

'Perfect,' said Oscar, then he wriggled out of Kevin's grasp and flipped the pair of them through one hundred and eighty degrees.

'Hey!' Kevin laughed, finding that Oscar's knee was now in his stomach. 'You're still full of surprises, bro.'

Oscar grinned down at him and said, 'You don't know the half of it!'

*

Ella pulled her coat on and headed for the front door.

'You don't have to go yet,' said Michael. 'My mom still won't be home for a while.'

'That's okay,' said Ella, avoiding his eye, 'I need to get going now.'

'Can I walk you home?'

'No, there's no need for that. Bye, Mike.'

Ella slunk out of the apartment, still without looking at Michael. Michael stared at the closed door for a few seconds with a mortified expression on his face, then he went over to the sink and started to fill the washing-up bowl with water.

*

One week and a few hours later, Kevin and Michael were sitting on the couch in Michael's lounge, Kevin in his red pyjama bottoms and Michael in his green pyjama bottoms. As the closing credits of Day of the Dead began to roll up the screen, Michael reached for the remote control.

'Did you enjoy that, Kev?' said Michael.

'Yeah, I did,' said Kevin. 'It's not nearly so good as Night and Dawn, and it's very disappointing that none of the actual characters turn into zombies, but it definitely deserves its place as one of the truly classic zombie flicks, along with the other two Romero Dead movies.'

'There was too much talk for my liking,' said Michael. 'Plus some of the actual dialogue was ropey as shit. I enjoyed the end part, though; all those guys getting their guts ripped out and stuff, that was great!'

'Don't you think it was a little overdone?' said Kevin.

'No,' said Michael, 'I thought it was just what the movie needed to liven it up.'

'I have to admit, that huge section of talk in the middle probably does go on too long,' said Kevin, 'but then any ideas you see in later zombie films about the main problem being the inability of people to cooperate and communicate can be traced back to Day of the Dead.'

'Yeah, I guess that is a pretty popular idea in the genre nowadays,' said Michael. 'Of course, you know what the real problem was for those soldiers, don't you?'

'No,' Kevin said with a grin. 'Go ahead and enlighten me, Mike.'

'The rest of them were jealous of that one soldier who was screwing the only woman,' said Michael. 'That's what really drives us guys, you know – the desire to get our rocks off. Well, I don't need to tell you that, do I? Mr Ten-Year-Old Jizz Machine!'

Kevin burst out laughing and said, 'I was never exactly a machine, Mike.'

'I guess us guys can do some pretty stupid things because of our sexual urges, huh?' said Michael. 'I guess we might end up accidentally hurting someone we really care about because we couldn't wait to get in there for some action.'

'Are we talking about anyone in particular here, Mike?'

'Yes, Kev. Me and Ella had sex last Friday. We did it right here on the couch, where you and me are sitting now. Or, to be more accurate, I did it! Ella said she didn't feel like she really did anything, and now I can see exactly what she meant. I had no idea what the hell I was doing! I... I basically just jacked off using Ella instead of my hand, Kev. And she's barely spoken to me since!'

'Oh, Mike,' said Kevin, giving him a sympathetic squeeze on the shoulder.

'I have to face the truth, Kev,' Michael sighed. 'I'm just a jerk and I'll never be anything else!'

'Mike, you're not a jerk,' Kevin said firmly. 'Do I strike you as the kind of person who'd be really close friends with a jerk?'

'No, Kev, you don't.'

'In that case, you can't be a jerk... because I feel like you and I have become really close friends over the past couple of years, Mike.'

Michael smiled and clapped Kevin on the upper arm.

'I wish I could be more like you, Kev,' he said. 'You'd never do that to a girl, would you? What I did to Ella, I mean.'

'Um... to be honest with you, Mike, I really don't think I would. But we all make mistakes, you know, and there are things we can do to fix them.'

'My heart feels like it'll never be fixed, Kev,' said Michael. 'I used to think “heartbroken” was just a silly, meaningless expression that girls use, but it's real – it literally feels like my heart has been smashed to pieces! Kev, you know that wonderful feeling, don't you? The one that's like a kind of tugging at your heart when you think about the person you're in love with.'

'Um... yeah, I do,' said Kevin. 'Is that what that feeling means, then? You're definitely in love with the person who's tugging at your heart... like, romantically?'

'Yeah,' said Michael, 'I'm sure that's exactly what it means. And I've always had that feeling for Ella, ever since the last few weeks of fifth grade... and now I know how much I've hurt her and it's absolutely killing me! I wish I knew what she's feeling about me right now... but I don't think it can be anything good!'

*

Ella knocked on the half-open door of her sister's room and shuffled a little way inside.

'Tara, can I get your help with something?' she said.

'Does it have to be right now?' said Tara, barely glancing up from her desk. 'I need to get this math homework finished.'

'No,' said Ella, 'I guess it doesn't have to be right now. It's okay, Tara; just forget all about it.'

As Ella slunk away, Tara looked up and frowned. She put down her pen, jumped to her feet and ran out into the hallway.

'This is something important, isn't it?' Tara said to Ella's back.

'It could be,' said Ella, coming to a stop but not turning around. 'But don't worry about it; it's not your problem.'

'Don't be silly,' said Tara. 'Tell me all about it and I promise I'll help you if I can.'

Ella turned and smiled at her sister, then she nodded towards her own bedroom. Tara followed her inside and closed the door behind them.

'What is it?' said Tara.

'I... I shouldn't tell you,' said Ella. 'You're too young and I shouldn't be burdening you with stuff like this.'

'You just have to tell me now!'

'Michael and I had sex last Friday.'

'Wow, you did?'

'Yeah. But the thing is, now I really wish we hadn't! It was all my fault, Tara – I ignored my secret heart and gave in to my overexcited head, then I regretted it straight afterward!'

'Why?' said Tara. 'Didn't you enjoy it?'

'No, I didn't,' said Ella. 'I mean, it wasn't actually unpleasant or anything, but I just kept waiting and waiting for it to become fun, like it's supposed to be, and it absolutely did not happen!'

'Maybe you guys weren't doing it right,' Tara suggested.

'Yeah, I think that's exactly the problem,' Ella sighed. 'The thing is, Tara, I really feel like Michael did all the work and he just kind of used me to... well, to get himself off.'

'Oh my God,' Tara gasped, 'are you saying he raped you? If you didn't specifically tell him that you wanted to do it, that's rape, Ella!'

'Oh, no,' said Ella, 'Mike would never do anything like that to me... or to anyone, I'm sure. I told him he could do it... I mean, I wanted to do it, just like he did, and I told him so... but I guess I was hoping that he'd include me in the whole experience, and he didn't. I'm starting to wonder whether he really loves me, Tara, or if he just wants me for sex.'

'Wow,' said Tara, 'that feeling must suck.'

'It does,' said Ella, 'but that may not even be the worst of it. You see, I'm... well, I'm a few days late, Tara.'

'You mean... oh my God!' said Tara. 'You're worried you might be pregnant, aren't you?'

'Yeah, I am. We never even thought about using any kind of protection – we just went ahead and did it!'

'That's Michael's fault – if he was planning to get you over to his place and do it with you, he should've gotten hold of a condom first!'

'It doesn't matter whose fault it is,' said Ella. 'The fact is that it's happened and we have to deal with it.'

'Ella, are you sure he actually... well, you know... inside of you?' Tara asked.

'Yes,' said Ella, 'he definitely did that. Tara, how do you know so much about this stuff?'

'I've seen a ton of videos in human development class,' Tara said proudly.

'Oh yeah, right,' said Ella, 'I remember those. Anyway, what I actually wanted you to help me with... or what I wanted you to do for me, really... was this.'

Ella opened her bedside cabinet and took out a yoghurt pot and a small rectangular box.

'Is that a pot of your pee?' said Tara.

'Yeah, it is,' said Ella. 'And this is a home pregnancy testing kit; it's one of those ones where you take the stick and dip it in the pee. I was planning to do the test myself, but I... I... well, I got to thinking about what might happen if it came up positive, like what Mom and Dad and Michael and everyone else would say, and I... I just couldn't do it, Tara.'

'Don't worry about it, Ella,' said Tara. 'I'll do it for you. You just hand everything over to me and try to relax... not that you probably can right now, but still...'

Tara took the pot of urine and the pregnancy testing kit and placed them onto Ella's desk. She took out the kit's instructions and read them carefully, then she unwrapped the stick and dipped it into Ella's sample.

'Oh my God,' Ella breathed, 'what if it's positive?'

'We only need to worry about that if it's not negative,' said Tara.

'How long do we have to wait before we find out?' Ella asked.

'Um... up to four minutes,' said Tara, consulting the instructions again.

'Jesus,' said Ella.

*

'Listen, Mike,' said Kevin, 'I know you really love Ella and I know you're not just a jerk, otherwise you wouldn't care about her feelings! You'd be sitting here bragging to me about your conquest, not beating yourself up about it; it would be your balls that were aching for her instead of your heart! It's an indisputable fact – you love Ella and she loves you. You just need to remind her of that in a thoughtful and meaningful way.'

'You think that'll work, Kev?' Michael said doubtfully.

'Of course it will, Mike,' said Kevin, 'so long as you're honest with her. Like my Uncle Eduardo says, chicks dig honesty, dude!'

'Yeah, I guess so. Tell me what I need to say to her, Kev.'

'I'm afraid I can't do that, Mike. Whatever you say to her, it has to be from the heart.'

'But I've never been any good at talking about my feelings.'

'You've just done it with me – and I'm really glad that you did – so I bet you can do it with Ella if you put your mind to it!'

'I guess I'll have to give the whole thing some serious thought, huh?'

'Yeah, I guess you will. How about we have a little fight in the meantime? It'll cheer you up!'

'I'm not sure it will, Kev,' said Michael.

'Of course it will,' said Kevin. 'Aren't you feeling inspired by those zombies? I sure am! I'll try to rip your guts out and you try to stop me, okay?'

Kevin lunged, and dug his fingers into Michael's abdomen. Michael groaned and then laughed.

'Don't you think we should just practise a couple of those karate moves of yours?' he said.

'I'm not in the mood for karate right now,' said Kevin. 'I need something more... more primal!'

'Well, okay then,' said Michael. 'But for God's sake, watch out for the walls!'

Kevin jumped to his feet and grinned at Michael.

'We'll make sure to stay in the middle of the room,' he said. 'Ooh, here's an idea! Pretend I'm you, Mike.'

'Say what, Kev?'

'Tell me how you feel about the situation with Ella, and work out some of your negative emotions,' Kevin elaborated. 'I'll give you ten free shots.'

Kevin raised his arms and put his hands behind his head, then he nodded to Michael. Michael nodded back, frowned, leapt to his feet and slammed both his fists into Kevin's stomach.

'Why didn't you consider her feelings more, you IDIOT?' Michael yelled. 'Ella's the best thing that's ever happened to you! You say you love her but you used her like a disposable sex toy! You don't deserve her, you fucking jerk-off! If you lose her because of this then it'll serve you right!'

Michael punched Kevin in the gut eight more times, then he followed up with a few more for good measure. When Michael finally drew back, panting and sweating heavily, Kevin bent double and let out a long and heartfelt groan.

'Oh! I'm sorry, Kev,' said Michael, 'did I go too far?'

'It's okay, Mike – I can take it,' said Kevin, looking up and fixing Michael with a grin. 'Now let's see  if you can take this!'

Kevin leapt at Michael and knocked him off his feet. The sounds of battle ensued.

*

'It's changing colour!' Tara exclaimed. 'Yes, it is, it's definitely changing colour!'

'Oh my God,' Ella wept, 'I just know it's gonna come up positive. Mom and Dad will be so disappointed in me... I'm so disappointed in me! Okay, I'm ready to hear the worst, Tara – it's positive, isn't it?'

'No, it's negative!' said Tara, then she took another look at the instruction leaflet. 'Yes... yes, it's definitely negative.'

Ella let out a cry of joy and relief and ran to fling her arms around her sister, tears running freely down her cheeks.

'Hey, watch out,' Tara laughed, 'you almost spilled your pee all over your desk!'

'Oh my God, Tara, I've never been so relieved in my life!' said Ella. 'Of course, this still doesn't solve the problem of what I'm going to do about Michael.'

'No, it doesn't,' said Tara. 'I guess you have three options, really – dump him and try to avoid him for the rest of your life, talk to him about your feelings and see how his response makes you feel, or forgive him straight off and forget all about it.'

'I can see a ton of pros and cons for all three,' Ella sighed. 'Tell me what to do, Tara.'

'I can't, Ella. That's between you and your secret heart.'

'Yeah, I guess it is. Tara?'

'Yeah?'

'Thanks.'

'No problem,' said Tara.

*

Kevin and Michael were lying at right-angles to each other in the middle of the living room floor, both breathing heavily.

'Jesus, my back hurts,' said Michael.

'I think some of my ribs are bruised,' said Kevin. 'So, did it help?'

'Yeah, I think it did actually. I've had an idea, Kev.'

'Tell me all about it, Mike.'

'You said I have to prove myself to Ella in a thoughtful and meaningful way, right?'

'I think that would be a very good idea, yeah.'

'Ella used to collect Pokémon trading cards,' said Michael. 'She was desperate to have a full set of the original hundred and fifty-one Pokémon, but she never managed to get hold of Mewtwo. Stay with me here, Kev, 'cause this will make sense in just a second. There's a comic book and trading card convention running all weekend in the church hall behind the supermarket where my mom works. I have a few old comic books that I could take along there; maybe I could trade some or all of them for an original Mewtwo card.'

'Mike, that's a wonderful idea,' said Kevin. 'It's both thoughtful and meaningful! Now, I'm having an idea myself... I have a ton of old comic books stashed in the attic; we could take those along to the church hall too! If Mewtwo's quite rare, we may have to do a few different trades around the convention before we can actually get hold of him, so the more comics we have to trade with, the better!'

'But... but why would you want to donate your comics to help me get Ella back, Kev?'

'That's a stupid question, Mike. Because you're my friend and I care about you! I care about Ella too, and I want you both to be happy... and I know neither of you will ever be happy if you're not a couple!'

'What comic books do you have?'

'Oh, loads of different kinds. There's some Superman and some Batman and some Incredible Hulk, and I think there's some X-Men in there somewhere. Most of them used to belong to my Uncle Eduardo.'

'Are you sure he won't mind us giving them away?'

'Perfectly sure – he said I can do whatever I want with them.'

'Well... let's go ahead and do it, then,' said Michael. 'Thanks, Kev. Thanks a lot!'

'No problem, Mike,' said Kevin. 'I think what we should do is take your comics along to my house tomorrow morning – after your mom comes home and we've said hi and told her what we're planning to do, of course – and then shove them into a couple of cardboard boxes along with my comics, then I'll get my mom to drop us off at the convention when she takes the car out to do her weekly grocery shop.'

'Are you sure your mom will be okay with that?'

'Yeah, she'll be totally cool about it. But Mike, you know a Mewtwo card isn't gonna magically fix the situation all by itself, don't you? Yes, it's a thoughtful and meaningful gift for Ella, but you'll still need to tell her how you feel about what happened, and be prepared to listen to how she feels.'

'I do know that, Kev,' said Michael, 'and I'm totally ready to do it.'

'Sorry if I'm coming across as a little preachy here,' said Kevin. 'I'm not really a world authority on this stuff – I just tell it how I see it.'

'You're not preachy, Kev,' said Michael. 'You're a genuinely caring person.'

'I truly believe that if you're as honest with Ella as you've been with me, and as you were with yourself when I was pretending to be you,' said Kevin, 'everything will work out okay. Not that I'm saying you should punch Ella repeatedly in the gut of course, but... well, you know what I mean.'

Michael nodded, smiled and then held out his right hand to Kevin. Kevin grasped it in an upright grip, and smiled back at Michael.

'Kev, I... I have to tell you something,' said Michael.

'Go ahead, Mike,' said Kevin.

'I'm worried it's gonna sound stupid when I say it.'

'No need for that, Mike – there's only the two of us here and I promise I won't laugh at you.'

'Yeah, I know you won't,' said Michael. 'The thing is, Kev, you're absolutely right about the two of us becoming really close friends over the past couple of years, and you've been so cool to me and we've had so much fun together and I just have to tell you that I... I... I hope you realise that I... I really appreciate your friendship.'

Kevin's smile widened and he said, 'You have it for life, Mike, if you want it.'

'I do want it, Kev,' said Michael. 'And you have mine for life, no question... if you want it.'

'I want it more than you can imagine, Mike,' said Kevin.

'That's okay, then,' said Michael. 'Do you think we should get ready for bed now?'

'Yeah,' said Kevin, 'I think we probably should.'

*

Beth's car pulled up outside the church hall, and Michael and Kevin jumped out of the back. While Michael went to the boot to retrieve one box of comics, Kevin opened the front passenger door to retrieve the other.

'I'll be in the supermarket parking lot when you're done,' Beth said to Kevin. 'I expect I'll be back at the car before you, but don't worry about keeping me waiting – I've brought some sewing to do.'

'Thanks a lot, Mom,' Kevin beamed at her, as he picked up the cardboard box from the passenger seat. 'I'm sure we won't be too long.'

'Okay, honey,' said Beth. 'You boys have fun now, won't you? See you soon.'

Kevin slammed the door and Beth drove off. With the overflowing cardboard boxes in their arms, Kevin and Michael entered the convention venue.

*

A little later, at the mall, Oscar and Ella were tuning their guitars while Danny and Tim were each enjoying a milkshake in the front window of the nearby Burger King.

'Oscar, do you mind if I run something by you?' said Ella.

'Not at all, Ella,' said Oscar. 'Is it to do with the band?'

'No, it's personal,' said Ella. 'Would you prefer it if I didn't say anything, knowing that?'

'No way,' Oscar laughed. 'Go ahead and tell me what's on your mind.'

'Well, the thing is, I've come to a very important decision,' said Ella. 'I'm going to dump Michael and ask out Kevin.'

'You... you are?'

'Yes, I am... unless you convince me that it's a totally stupid idea.'

'Well, Ella, I... I think I need a little more information before I can make an informed decision.'

'Michael only wants me for sex, Oscar! It's an unpleasant truth, but I've finally come to terms with it. I know for sure that Kevin likes me – or at least he used to – 'cause he gave me his jacket on the first day of seventh grade, when I was going to get in trouble for not having a jacket.'

'That might not mean he has the hots for you,' said Oscar. 'Maybe it's just that Kevin's a great guy. I mean, he is a great guy, and that sounds like the kind of thing he'd have done for anyone in that situation.'

'How about that Valentine he made for me, then?' said Ella.

'Was it one of those dog ones?' said Oscar.

'Yeah,' said Ella.

'He made those for loads of people, Ella,' Oscar pointed out. 'I still have mine hanging on my wall.'

'But the message he wrote for me!' said Ella. 'Eternal Love, Luxuriant Angel – I think that makes it pretty clear that he does likes me in a romantic and maybe sexual way.'

'Yeah... yeah, maybe,' said Oscar. 'Or maybe there was more to the whole situation than you know.'

'I'll let you in on a secret,' said Ella. 'When I found that Valentine in my locker, I had every intention of dumping Michael – who hadn't given me a Valentine, by the way – and going off with Kevin. I was going to march right up to him in afternoon homeroom – to Kevin, I mean – and kiss him on the lips, while sitting on his lap if possible, but then Michael gave me a really thoughtful Pokémon Valentine and I changed my mind at the last second.'

'Wow,' said Oscar. 'That's really... wow.'

'I was planning to slip Kevin the tongue as well,' Ella grinned, 'assuming he kissed me back, which I think he would've done.'

'Yeah... yeah, I guess maybe he would've,' said Oscar. 'But it's probably better that you didn't go through with it, don't you think? I mean, the situation could've gotten really... explosive. Because of Michael, I mean.'

'I know,' said Ella, smiling slightly, 'but now I wish I had gone off with Kevin... and I wish I still had him to this day! Okay, so his nose isn't quite as nice as Michael's, but I really don't see that as an issue. I've always found him really sexy, you know. Kevin, I mean.'

'Isn't Michael sexy too?'

'Yeah, he is. But Kevin is and always has been a little bigger and a lot nicer than Michael, so he's clearly the better choice for a boyfriend. Kevin is, I mean.'

'But you love Michael, don't you?' Oscar pointed out. 'And he loves you.'

'I just don't know anymore, Oscar!' Ella wailed. 'Okay, yeah, I've been completely in love with Michael since the last few weeks of fifth grade, but how can he possibly love me when he... when he... I mean, I'm sure Kevin knows how to make love to a girl! I bet he'd be powerful but tender.'

'Mmm,' said Oscar, his expression glassing over slightly, 'I bet he would be.'

Ella cast Oscar a look and said, 'Do you think I'd be treading on anyone's toes if I asked Kevin out?'

Oscar hastily snapped out of his reverie and said, 'I wouldn't know.'

'Come on,' Ella said coaxingly, 'you guys share all your deepest feelings and darkest secrets, don't you?'

'Well... yeah, we do,' said Oscar, 'but we've never exactly broached the subject of... you know, Ella, I think Michael does love you, with all his surprisingly tender heart, and I'm pretty sure he'll find a way to dispel your doubts about that in the near future.'

'You really think?' Ella asked, with wide, hopeful eyes.

'I really think,' said Oscar. 'Let's just hope we don't reach the stage where Kevin and Michael end up killing each other in an incredibly violent fist-fight! Michael has tried to his prove his love for you in that way before.'

'Yeah, I know he has,' Ella sighed, then she allowed herself a small smile. 'It'd be pretty hot if they did fight it out over me! All that muscle and sweat and grunting and violence and brute strength... ooh, the thought of it is really doing things to me! But it's only a fantasy, of course – I wouldn't actually want them to hurt each other. Besides, they're really good friends now – I don't believe they'd ever get into a real fight.'

'Maybe now's the perfect time to find out,' said Oscar. 'Kevin and Michael have just walked through the main doors together, and they're headed this way. Why don't you go and throw yourself at Kevin and see what happens?'

'Oh, don't be silly,' Ella giggled. 'They've obviously come to hear us play, and that's really cool and supportive of them... both of them. Oscar, I really want to thank you for talking with me about this stuff. You're very easy to talk to, just like you're one of the girls. Oh, not that I'm saying you're girly in any way, but...'

'Relax, Ella,' Oscar laughed. 'I take it as the highest compliment, and you're very welcome.'

*

As Ella finished fastening her guitar case, Michael came up to her.

'Hi, Ella,' he said.

'Hi, Mike,' said Ella.

'You were really great up there,' said Michael.

'Thanks,' said Ella.

'Here, I got you something,' said Michael.

Michael pulled a plastic-wrapped Pokémon card from his pocket. Ella took hold of it and her mouth dropped open.

'It's Mewtwo!' she exclaimed.

'Yeah, it is,' said Michael.

'How did you get this?' said Ella. 'They're like gold dust nowadays!'

'Oh, you know,' Michael shrugged. 'I knew you wanted it, so I got it for you because I love you.'

'Oh, Mikey,' said Ella, fixing him with an adoring look.

'Ella, I don't want sex,' said Michael. 'I want you.'

Ella's face split into a huge smile. She carefully slid the Mewtwo card into her back pocket and then threw her arms around Michael. Michael hugged her in return, looking infinitely happy and extremely relieved. Meanwhile, Kevin had moved to stand next to Oscar.

'Great gig, man,' said Kevin.

'Thanks, dude,' said Oscar.

'It looks Michael and Ella are gonna be okay now,' Kevin remarked.

'Yeah, it does,' said Oscar. 'Thank God for that!'

'Yeah, thank God,' said Kevin.

They continued to watch as Ella said something to Michael that caused him to wander off towards the main exit. Ella then came across to Oscar and gave him a quick hug.

'You were right all along, dude,' she said to him. 'When it comes right down to it, I love the great big putz and that's all there is to it. And he loves me too – there's no doubt about it. We're going to get a McDonalds now. I'll see you for rehearsal tomorrow morning, okay? Hiya, Kev; thanks for coming.'

With that, Ella turned tail and ran after Michael's retreating form. Kevin fixed Oscar with a wry smile.

'Maybe you had more to do with it than God did, huh?' said Kevin.

'Yeah, maybe I did,' said Oscar. 'And maybe you had at least as much to do with it as I did, huh?'

'Yeah, could be,' Kevin grinned. 'Do you want to go get a milkshake from Burger King?'

'Sure,' said Oscar.

*

It was Monday evening. Kevin heard the doorbell, dragged himself off the couch and went to open the front door. His face lit up when he saw Lucy standing on the other side.

'Hiya, Luce,' he said.

'Hi, Kev,' said Lucy. 'I thought you might be lonely.'

'Yeah, I am a bit,' said Kevin. 'Come on in. Can I offer you some Sunny D?'

A short time later, Kevin and Lucy were sitting side by side on the couch, each sipping at a glass of Sunny Delight.

'So, I noticed that Michael and Ella are full of the joys of spring again,' said Lucy, 'and thinking about how you stayed the night with Michael on Friday, I can't help thinking that you probably had something to do with it.'

'Well... maybe I did play a small part in the whole sequence of events, yeah,' Kevin admitted.

'I knew it!' Lucy laughed. 'You're a saint on Earth, Kev. You know, I'm absolutely certain that Ella has the raging hots for you. Why didn't you sweep in and take her for yourself, huh?'

'For two very good reasons, actually,' said Kevin. 'Firstly, I don't have the raging hots for Ella, and secondly, I could never do that to Mike.'

'Yeah, I thought it'd be something like that,' said Lucy. 'Oh Kev, you really are something special.'

'It would never work between me and Ella anyway,' said Kevin. 'Even if she does find me attractive, she's in love with Mike and she always be, and he's in love with her and he always will be. They're for keeps, Luce, despite the occasional stumbling block.'

'No regrets about that on your part, Kev?' Lucy said with a grin. 'You're sure you haven't secretly been yearning for Ella all this time?'

'Yes, I'm absolutely certain about that,' Kevin assured her.

'So I wonder who you are secretly yearning for,' said Lucy. 'You're always helping Michael out with his love life, but when's it gonna be your turn?'

'Who says I want a turn?' Kevin asked airily.

'I do!' said Lucy. 'At the right time, and with the right person, I say you do want a turn!'

'Yeah, well... when's it gonna be your turn, Luce?'

'Who says I want one, Kev?'

'I don't know,' Kevin laughed. 'Maybe you don't, for all I know.'

'You really like Michael now, don't you?' said Lucy.

'Yeah, I do,' said Kevin. 'You like him too, right? He certainly likes you.'

'Sure, I like him,' said Lucy. 'I don't think I'd want to go so far as to stay the night with him, though, even if I was a boy.'

'Well, I enjoy his company enormously,' said Kevin, 'both before and after dark.'

'Just as I thought,' said Lucy. 'It's funny how things work out sometimes, wouldn't you say?'

'Without a doubt,' said Kevin. 'Anyways, should I get the chess out?'

'Good God, no!' said Lucy. 'I absolutely cannot stand chess! No, I know something much more fun we can do together.'

*

Beth moved closer to the edge of the bed as Carl wormed his way between the sheets beside her.

'I walked in on Kevin and that Asian girl on the couch together earlier,' Carl remarked.

'You mean Lucy,' said Beth.

'Yeah, Lucy,' said Carl. 'Do you know what the two of them were doing, Beth?'

'No,' said Beth, 'but I think I can say with certainty what they weren't doing: anything remotely sexual, right?'

'Right!' said Carl. 'They both had Post-It notes stuck to their foreheads and they were asking each other questions about who the Post-It said they were!'

'Oh yes, I know that game,' said Beth. 'Who were they supposed to be?'

'Kevin's Post-It said he was Abraham Lincoln and Lucy's said she was Sarah Michelle Gellar. But that's not really the point, Beth.'

'Were they having a good time?'

'They were shouting and laughing and collapsing all over each other with hilarity, if that's what you mean.'

'Well, that's certainly what I suspected they'd have been doing. I guess you'd have preferred them to be having a different kind of good time, huh?'

'Yeah, kinda,' Carl shrugged.

'Carl, you do not want to walk in on Kevin having sex on the couch, be it with a girl or a boy or a farmyard animal or whatever,' said Beth. 'You'll just have to trust me on that one, honey.'

'I didn't exactly want to walk in on them having sex,' said Carl, 'but seeing as the two of them were there, all alone in the house together... Beth, tell me the truth: Kevin's gay, isn't he?'

'I really don't know, Carl,' said Beth. 'I do know that Lucy's one of his very best friends and they absolutely do not have that kind of a relationship, but there could be another girl that Kevin's planning to bang on the couch at some point, for all I know.'

'Yeah,' said Carl, sounding a little happier. 'Yeah, I guess there could be. Hey, maybe it's that blond girl with the rack! You know, the one who's always showing off her midriff.'

'You mean Ella,' said Beth. 'I really don't think so, honey. But one thing I do know about Kevin is that he's a really great kid and his friends really love him and I'm incredibly proud of him, and so should you be!'

'I am proud of him!' said Carl. 'I just wish I understood him better, that's all.'

'If you could just understand that he's a very nice boy and that's all there is to it, that might be a good start,' said Beth, smiling slightly. 'Think what he could be doing at his age, Carl. He could be going out stealing and drinking and drug-taking and knocking up girls and God knows what else!'

'I think I'd understand him a lot better if he did do that kind of thing!' said Carl. 'Not that I'd approve of it, of course, but at least I'd be able to understand it.'

'I'm sure you'll understand one day, hon,' Beth sighed. 'I'm sure we both will. Now, let's turn off the light and try to get some sleep, shall we?'

'Yeah, okay,' said Carl. 'Goodnight, honey.'

'Goodnight, Carl.'
May 2002: There are testing times ahead for Ella when Oscar goes all-out to get his band together, and Michael goes all-out to get up close and personal. Caught at a crossroads, Ella soon finds herself wrestling with potentially life-changing circumstances.

This story is part of a collaborative Extreme Ghostbusters virtual spin-off, which can be read in its entirety here: egbfans.weebly.com/spin-off.ht…
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