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Sweat poured down my face as I pedaled my mountain bike toward my best friend Jake Cooper’s house. It was only eleven o’clock in the morning, but it was already close to ninety degrees and humid, and I was looking forward to diving into the Coopers’ pool. I was wearing a white tank top, tie-dyed board shorts, Oakley sunglasses and a pair of old Nikes. Jake and I had just graduated from high school and we were looking forward to a summer filled with parties before we went to Penn State.
My mother Bridget and her husband Walter left the house after breakfast to play tennis at their country club and have lunch with one of Walter’s endless array of business contacts. Walter married my mother when I was twelve and he was never bothered by my refusal to refer to him as my stepfather. In fact, he seemed content to do as little parenting as possible.
My parents got divorced when I was ten. My dad Jay decided he liked vodka and twenty-one year old girls better than he liked being a husband and a father. I see him about once a month and we talk on the phone about once a week. Almost every time we talk, he brags about the latest “hottie” his combination of good looks and a healthy bank account nabbed him; sometimes, he even sends me pictures of some of his “conquests” asleep in his bed once the transaction was completed. It’s disturbing to think you’re more mature at eighteen than your father is at forty-two.
My mom Bridget was her daddy’s little girl, a pampered princess who, as near as I could tell, was bred for two purposes: marrying a man who was almost as rich as Grampa and producing an heir for Grampa’s money. When Dad left us, Mom went into a little tail spin. For weeks, she sat around the house, looking dazed while the housekeepers worked around her. Eventually, Mom shook off Dad’s rejection and commenced auditions for “Husband 2.0.” Bridget made my role in the audition process very clear – I was to look handsome, be on my best behavior and speak as little as possible as Bridget paraded a series of doctors, lawyers and Wall Street types through our house in search of a new and improved life partner, one who would put the original model to shame.
I felt sorry for Bridget. Instead of encouraging her to be independent and carve out her own place in the world, my grandparents raised her to believe she couldn’t be complete unless there was a man at her side at all times. When Dad pulled his disappearing act, instead of going into therapy or “finding herself,” she went all “American Idol,” scouring the surrounding counties and states for the man who would make her feel whole again. I was happy for her when she found Walter, especially because he expressed no interest in insinuating himself into my life. He had a hedge fund to run, and no time for distractions like Little League, high school football or school plays. Walter had an apartment in the city where he spent most nights. When Walter came by the house, it was usually to whisk Bridget off to some black tie event or to weekends in the Hamptons or international vacations. Each time, before they left, she explained that it wasn’t that they didn’t want me to join them, they just didn’t want to bore me with all of their “grown up” stuff.
Having an adolescent father, an absentee step-dad and a flighty mother might have screwed me up royally; instead, it made having the Coopers in my life pretty damn special. Hank Cooper and my dad were college roommates, and they started a very successful software company together. Jake and I were born in the same hospital a month apart and we basically grew up together. The Coopers’ three story house is filled with photos that depict the growth of the family, and it seems like I’m in almost all of them, going back to when I was a baby. When my parents split, my dad also quit the company, but that didn’t change my relationship with the Coopers. When Bridget started the audition process, I started spending more and more time with them. I would have dinner and sleep over in Jake’s room four or five nights a week. I think Bridget was actually happy there were people so eager to look after me, allowing her to continue the hunt for “Husband 2.0” with minimal inconvenience.
Jake’s mom, Cindy, is the warmest, most loving person I’ve ever known. Many of my earliest memories are of Cindy’s warm blue eyes, her brilliant smile and her infectious laugh. As I grew up, Cindy was the person I always looked to when I had a question or needed advice. She was always there for me, at all of the biggest events of my young life. I spent much of my early life wishing that Cindy could have been my mother. As I entered adolescence, however, and the hormones started kicking in, I began appreciating her more for the beautiful woman she is, and I found myself wishing I could marry her.
If Cindy Cooper was the first love of my life, Jake’s older sister Denise, or Dee Dee, as everyone called her, was definitely my first object of desire. I was responsible for her nickname. Dee Dee was two when Jake and I were born. According to canlı bahis her mother, Dee Dee loved playing with us, almost as if we were living dolls. As I was learning to speak, I couldn’t say “Denise;” instead it came out as “Dee Dee.” Jake quickly picked it up, and her parents found it so adorable the name stuck. Dee Dee never seemed to mind the name we’d given her. As we all grew up, she was Dee Dee to all her friends, family and even some of her teachers.
As it turned out, the nickname was apt. Dee Dee’s breasts sprouted when Jake and I were eight and she was ten. As we got older, her breasts seemed to grow exponentially. It wasn’t a complete surprise, as Mrs. Cooper was a 36 D herself (a fact I ascertained when I was twelve, by helping Mrs. Cooper with the laundry and sneaking peeks at the tags on some of her bras.) Dee Dee got a genetic second helping, however, and she fully lived up to her nickname by the time she turned seventeen.
At five feet eight inches and one hundred thirty pounds, Dee Dee made one hell of a package, with sunny blond hair she let grow down to the middle of her back and a butt she kept firm and round by cheerleading and playing softball and volleyball during high school. Though we’d basically grown up together, I’d always had feelings for Dee Dee that were more than brotherly. Jake loved slugging me in the gut and calling me a pervert whenever he caught me staring at his sister for more than three seconds.
Throughout my adolescence, Dee Dee was just out of reach, separated from me by a gap of two years, which felt more like two eternities to me. The older high school guys started noticing Dee Dee’s body when she turned fifteen; if there had been any chance she might notice me before that, it was game over at that point. Dee Dee, Jake and I attended the same prep school for four years. I’d see her in the halls, but she never acknowledged my existence. She was always surrounded by jocks or chattering with her fellow cheerleaders.
I was limited to fantasies of Dee Dee, and I enjoyed plenty of them. I regularly relieved my aching libido with visions of her spectacular body, even on nights when I slept over at Jake’s house. The family would sit down for dinner, then we’d hang out, watching T.V. or playing games. I’d sneak as many glances at Dee Dee as I could without getting called out. Eventually, I’d head to the bathroom and let my imagination run wild. After Dee Dee graduated and headed to the University of Michigan, I only saw her a handful of times, at Thanksgiving and on her winter breaks; she spent the summer after her freshman year of college living and working in New York City. I dated Becky Anderson, one of the smartest students in my class, during my last two years of prep school, but Dee Dee never completely disappeared from my thoughts, or my fantasies.
I reached six feet tall by the time I turned eighteen, just before my senior year of high school. I wore my brown hair down below the collar of my shirt. I was a pitcher and outfielder on the baseball team in high school, while Jake was an all-state wrestler. We spent loads of time in the weight room, so I carried one hundred ninety pounds on a muscular frame, while Jake was five-eight, just like his sister, and a rock solid one seventy-five. Jake earned a wrestling scholarship to Penn State, while I was going to try and walk on with the baseball team as a non-scholarship player. Bridget’s head nearly exploded when I told her I was going to Penn State; she was sure I meant the University of Pennsylvania, but I had no interest in an Ivy League pedigree. When we were ten years old, Jake and I vowed that we’d stick together for life, and I was going to stand by that promise.
My dad and Hank Cooper took their company public when Jake and I were nine. As Jay still likes to say whenever he brings it up, “Wall Street ate it up like they were eating sushi off Kate Upton’s naked body.” My dad took the pile of money he made off the I.P.O. as a sign from God that it was time to fulfill his destiny as the playboy of the western world; within a year, he’d divorced Bridget and left the company.
Hank Cooper went in a different direction. Around the time my dad left the company, Mr. Cooper bought a three acre parcel of land five miles away from my house and built a three story house from the ground up. It was a majestic piece of architecture, with a slate gray exterior, six bedrooms (including one that was designated for me,) a computer lab and a library on the third floor, a fully automated kitchen and a media room the size of a small movie theater in the basement, with an eighty inch hi-def screen, surround sound, and enough leather couches and recliners to have a party of forty. Behind the house, there was a twenty-five yard swimming pool, a hot tub and a deck attached to the second floor, where the family held cookouts every other weekend in the summer. Gardening was one of Mrs. Cooper’s passions; the grounds included flower and vegetable gardens and a greenhouse, where Mrs. Cooper grew orchids and tropical bahis siteleri plants that she sold on line.
There was a half mile private access road leading from the main road to the house, and a small forest of pine and oak trees surrounding the grounds, creating a sense of intimacy. I rode my bike up the driveway and leaned it against the detached four car garage, which was about a hundred feet away from the house. I walked around to the back of the house. Jake was standing on the diving board, bouncing up and down with his back facing me.
“Yo, asshat!” I yelled as I dropped my backpack, bike helmet and Oakleys on one of the patio tables near the pool.
“What took you so long, shit head?” Jake yelled before doing a back flip into the pool, splashing me as much as he could.
“Bridget insisted on having a family breakfast,” I said as Jake surfaced. “I guess she wanted to throw me a curveball, going into parental mode. She wanted to know what my plans for the summer are. Guess what happened next.”
“What?” he said with a laugh as he floated on his back in the crystal clear water.
“Walter offered me a job, no, wait, an ‘internship,” I said, making air quotes with my fingers. “He said I would work with one of the brokers at his firm, get my feet wet in the family business. He actually called it the family business.”
“What did you say?”
“I told him I’d think about it,” I said as I made a jerking off motion with my fist. “Bridget got a little pissed. I guess she thought I’d jump at the chance to have some bonding time with Walter.”
“Maybe she’s concerned about her son’s future,” a warm voice said from behind me. I turned and felt my heart swell as Cindy Cooper approached the pool, carrying a tray that held a pitcher of lemonade and two tall glasses filled with ice. She was wearing a sleeveless, royal blue cotton sun dress with a white floral design. The scooped neckline showed off just a hint of cleavage, while the dress hugged her svelte torso and shapely hips before coming down to her knees. She was wearing brilliant white, open-toed sandals on her feet and dangling silver earrings. Mrs. Cooper was a competitive swimmer in college, and she swam every morning at sunrise, when it was warm enough. There were more than a few mornings after I slept over at the Coopers’ that I set the alarm on my cell phone early enough to get to a window overlooking the pool and watch Mrs. Cooper knifing through the crystal clear water. She even made one-piece suits look sexy. The brightness of the blue dress combined with her shoulder-length blond hair to give her a sunny glow. I walked over to the table as she poured the two glasses full of lemonade.
“Good morning, David,” Mrs. Cooper said, smiling as she opened her arms wide to hug me. She slipped her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. “It’s normal for a mother to be concerned about her child’s future, and sometimes to even try to nudge them in what she thinks is a positive direction.” Her voice rose as she took a step back and looked over my shoulder toward the pool. I turned and watched Jake floating on his back, deliberately avoiding responding to his mother. “It’s O.K.,” she said. “I just keep talking to him and trust that some of what I’m saying will stick there.”
“I don’t know,” I said skeptically. “With a head as thick as his, most of it will probably just bounce off.”
“Bite me, ass face!” Jake yelled before laughing maniacally and flipping himself over in the water a couple of times. Jake loved acting like a lazy sack of shit who cared about nothing more than the next piece of ass he could get his hands on but, in reality, Jake was a gifted computer system designer who was going to end up working with his dad if he didn’t have a startup of his own, as well as a state champion wrestler. Jake loved staying up on line late into the night, long after everyone else had fallen asleep, trading ideas and talking computer design with people all over the world.
“There’s a pizza baking in the oven,” Mrs. Cooper said. “It will be ready to come out in a minute. I believe Jake has a movie marathon set up in the media room.”
“Marvel movie marathon,” Jake yelled. “Both Hulks, Thor, the first Captain America and the Avengers.” The Coopers’ media room, with an eighty-inch high-def TV, surround sound and leather couches and reclining chairs, was perfect for a couple of teenaged superhero junkies.
“Just try and come out of it with your sight and hearing intact, honey,” Mrs. Cooper said. “I’ll be at Aunt Juliet’s house, helping her set up for Sharon’s bridal shower. I should be home by six.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Jake yelled before he started swimming.
“I love you, Jake,” Mrs. Cooper said. “David, would you come in to the kitchen and help me with the pizza?”
I looked back at Jake, who was gliding through the water, then I followed Mrs. Cooper into the kitchen. I knew my “helping” her was likely to consist of listening as she offered her opinion on Walter’s job offer. She walked past the long bahis şirketleri white marble counter in the middle of the kitchen and opened the oven. The aroma of tomatoes, cheese and herbs immediately came wafting out, making my stomach rumble. Using two oven mitts, Mrs. Cooper pulled the pizza stone out of the oven and rested it on the counter. The pizza was covered with peppers, spinach and zucchini. Mrs. Cooper insisted that if she were going to make us pizza, it was going to be veggie.
“Now,” she said as she walked out from behind the counter, “what is so terrible about spending the summer working at Walter’s firm?”
“Bridget and Walter know very well I have no interest in spending my life doing finance stuff,” I said with a shrug. “The thought of sitting in an office all day, convincing people to hand over their money, makes my skin crawl. You know I want to become a writer, work on a newspaper or magazine, and write books.”
“Which you will be very good at,” she said with a smile on her face. “You’re a brilliant writer; I was so proud when you got your short story published last year. However, I can think of three very good reasons for you to work with Walter this summer.”
“Name them,” I said skeptically.
“First, it will make your mother very happy to see you bonding with Walter.”
“Happiness is a temporary state with Bridget,” I said, shaking my head. “She’ll find something else to worry about within a day.”
“Second, this is a gesture from Walter, reaching out to you.”
“This is Walter trying to get Bridget off his back,” I said caustically, “while stashing me in some cubicle where he wouldn’t have to look at me more than once or twice a week.”
“Third, I want you to do this, for me.” She slipped her arms around my waist, leaned in close and pressed her lips against my cheek. “I am so proud of the young man you’ve become, David, and I’m looking forward to the many great things you are going to do in the future. I think you should take this opportunity to try something different, learn something new. I’ll bet whatever you learn will end up being very valuable to you, down the road.”
She smiled at me with her brilliant white teeth and focused the concentrated beams of love in her cornflower blue eyes on me, and I knew the argument was over. Jake and I called it her “mom vision,” and I’d yet to meet anyone who could resist it.
“That is so unfair,” I said as I pulled back from her. “You know I’d do anything for you.”
“I’m only asking you to do it because I know it will be good for you,” she said, reaching out to brush my cheek with her fingers. “It doesn’t matter whether you want a career in finance. It will be valuable experience that will be useful to you one day, maybe as the subject for your first best-selling novel.”
“If that happens, I’ll have to dedicate it to you,” I said as we both laughed. “Fine,” I said. “I’ll do it, but I’ll expect a reward from you later on this summer.”
“Who knows?” she said with a sweet smile. “If you play your cards right, maybe you’ll get a special reward.” She leaned back into me, gave me a quick peck on the cheek and walked out of the kitchen. I could swear I heard her giggling as she walked away.
“What does that mean?” I called out after her.
She waved without looking back at me. I followed and watched her walk to the front door. She paused, gathering her purse and checking for her car keys. After a second, she turned and walked out of the house. I was only joking when I talked about getting a reward for taking her advice. Beyond everything they’d done for me, the Coopers hosted a blow-out eighteenth birthday party for me and Jake in November and a graduation party only a week before, with the whole senior class roaming all over their property, and they’d given me a four hundred dollar Swiss watch as a graduation present.
I decided to head back out to the pool and grab a quick dip while the pizza cooled. I closed the sliding door behind me, kicked off my sneakers, stripped off my shirt and ran toward the pool, leaping at the last moment and cannonballing my way into the water. Jake picked up a volleyball that was floating on the surface of the water and flung it at me. I dove to my right to avoid the ball and swam after it. In eighth grade, Jake and I took a swimming class where we spent half the time playing water polo. Jake adapted the idea into water dodge ball, where we accumulated points depending on what body part we nailed our opponent. Arms and legs were worth 200 points, the chest worth 300 points. Head shots were worth 500 points. If you managed to nail an opponent in the nuts, you were immediately declared the victor. The great thing about the game is it could be played one-on-one, or in teams up to four-on-four, depending on the size of the pool. We swam around the pool, dodging and taunting each other as we flung the ball in our best attempts to bruise each other all over our bodies.
At one point, Jake shot up out of the water and, with a primal scream, fired the ball, aiming at my head. When I ducked, the ball flew out of the pool, toward the patio. We both chortled as I swam over and climbed out of the pool. I jogged over to the patio and knelt down to pick up the ball.
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