Diana’s attention was focused on a customer at the register and I took the opportunity to stare. Becky had the bad manners to notice and the good manners not to say. I looked away when Diana looked up and spotted me amongst the racks. Becky lifted up a hanger with a couple of red colored threads on it and held it to her chest. She sidestepped to stand in the line of sight between Diana and myself.
Becky shook the hanger causing the threads to flutter in the artificial breeze. “You’re a guy,” she said, “would you like to see me wearing this?”
I blinked trying to refocus my eyes away from Diana’s smiling face just beyond the locks of Becky’s hair. “If you weren’t my cousin,” I said.
Becky cocked her head toward Diana. “Maybe I could get her to try it on for you.”
My face felt a little hotter than normal, but I went ahead with a shrug like I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. “Who?”
“You’re shy!” Becky laughed. “That’s so cute.”
I’m not sure which label sounded worse to me. Shy or cute, either way, it was the kiss of death when it came to girls. Fortunately, Becky and not Diana was the one saying it and I had no designs on Becky being anything more than my cousin. If we could be friends that was good and if we were just going to be relatives living together, well I could live with that too. I just didn’t want Diana getting any ideas from Becky’s big mouth.
“I’m just embarrassed for you,” I said. “My Mom ain’t never gonna let you buy that.”
Becky rolled her eyes to the lights above and shook her head. “I got my own money and unlike you, I don’t need Mommy’s permission.”
“Hey Ritchie,” Diana said and I nearly jumped out of my boots having not seen or heard her approach.
I recovered quick enough to nod my head. “Hi,” I said and lowered my gaze from her eyes. It took me a moment to realize I’d lowered my eyes a little too far and was staring where I shouldn’t. My face had the audacity to run a little hot again. I tried to hide it, turning my attention more toward Becky. “You ain’t met my cousin, Becky, have you?”
Diana turned away from me after a lingering look at the side of my face and held a hand out to Becky. “I’m Diana.”
Becky nodded. “So tell me, Ritchie is rather noncommittal, is this going to be a good look for me.” She turned flat toward Diana and waved the red strings in front of herself.
Diana looked her up and down for a moment. “Well, you’ve got the curves to pull it off, but if you’re planning on wearing it locally, you aren’t going to be making many friends.”
Becky shook her head. “You mean the guys will look, but their mothers all got them on short choke chains.”
Diana laughed. “We call that manners, locally.”
Becky rolled her eyes. “In California, we call that whipped.”
Diana laughed a little harder. “If my mother even caught me looking at that, whipped is exactly what I’d be. I guess things are different in California.”
“You could say that,” Becky said. “It’s almost like I’ve traveled back in time to the middle ages.”
Diana nodded. “Except we don’t burn witches anymore.”
Becky smiled at Diana and then turned to me and pointed her finger at my bluejeans. I had a sudden urge to cover my crotch with my hands, but I fought it off and stared at the offending finger instead.
“He’s the real trouble anyway,” Becky said.
“Oh?” Diana asked looking at me.
“Yeah,” Becky said, “he needs swim trunks for a pool party his mother’s throwing this weekend.”
Diana looked back to Becky. “What’s the occasion?”
Becky modeled herself like a superstar. “Why me of course.”
I said, “My mom wants to introduce her to the neighborhood.”
Becky turned to Diana. “You’ll be there right?”
Diana glanced in my direction. “Well I wasn’t invited, I don’t think.”
“Of course you were,” Becky said, “and if you weren’t by some insane oversight, I’m inviting you now.”
“I don’t want to intrude,” Diana said.
“You won’t be,” Becky said. “You’ll be the only person there that I know other than my dorky cousin.”
I frowned at Becky, but as I fancied the idea of Diana being around, I looked at her and said, “I’m absolutely certain my mother would be delighted if you and your family would come by.”
Becky shook her head at me and stepped next to me, laying her hand on my shoulder. “Yes, I’m sure it’s only your mother who’ll be delighted.”