“We should get a pet.” Deanna studies the array of nail polishes in front of her, then selects a light blue and holds it up for me to examine.
I stick out my hand at her artistic mercy. “I don’t wanna mom you here, but you are definitely not responsible enough for a pet.”
“Ridiculous. I house you and feed you–”
“I make dinner most nights–”
She pokes the nail brush in my face. “Don’t talk back to me, young man.”
Don’t talk back to me. The memory is there, for just a moment, but I drag myself back into the moment before I can drift too far. “What kind of pet do you want?”
“I thought I was too irresponsible.”
“A cat.” She smiles like she knows what she’s doing.
“Unacceptable. We’re getting a dog.”
“Fine. Name ideas?”
“Bark-tholomew,” I grin.
“Zero out of ten. I’m revoking your naming privileges.”
“Hold up–is this our dog or your dog?”
“You get feeding and bathing rights, I get playing and naming rights.” She gestures for me to switch hands.
I hold my left hand out, closely inspecting the robin’s egg hue on the right. “Sure, that seems totally fair.” I tap experimentally at my ring fingernail with my thumb, and it smears a little.
“Hey now, don’t touch your nails for a while; it’s still drying.”
“Mmm…” She bobs her head side-to-side. “Bout an hour? Just to be safe?”
“Yeah, boy. It’s fucking paint. Never done your nails before?”
“If I had tried it would have made the goddamn front page: Dude Paints Nails; Stereotyping Father Immediately Calls for Conversion Therapy.”
She snorts, but there’s a familiar sympathy in her look. “Well you’re rocking it, so Stereotyping Father can go screw himself.”
Deanna hesitates in painting the next nail–pauses for a moment and glances up at me. She takes a breath, like she wants to say something. There’s a fraction of a second when I think she’s going to confront it–the thing we haven’t talked about since I stumbled into the bar she works at, a drunk kid spewing curses at my dad. Since she poured me a glass of water and let me babble about how if they didn’t want me, then I didn’t need to live with my parents, anyways, lots of teens live by themselves, right? Since she let me sleep on her couch, and I woke up the next morning panicking about where I was going to stay and what I was going to do, and she just shrugged and told me the couch was mine if I wanted it. Never asked for details. Never asked how I got kicked out.
And she doesn’t ask now. “Blow on them, they’ll dry faster.” She demonstrates a motion that looks like she’s attempting to mime harmonica playing.
I copy the movement, glancing up for confirmation that I’m doing it right, and Deanna gives me a thumbs-up.
I take a deep breath. “Hey, Dea?”
“If we get a girl dog we can name her Lizzie Bork-den.”
“I hate you.”