Lingerie is to Women what Mobile Suits are to Newtypes.
Sunday, February 14th, Gutterballs bowling alley, 10:10 AM
The sound of rolling boulders speeding down fairways and crashing into humanoid obelisks could be heard intermittently among the backdrop of squeaky shoes and 80's pop rock. The neon alleys were pockmarked by circles of white light dancing in tune with the beat of the speakers. Red, pink, and white streamers dangled from the ceiling, obscuring the minimalist murals of tenpin strikes lining the walls. Outside the sunken area of the lanes, recreational tables and lounge seats were privy to better lighting. It is here we find a booth filled with eight people; four couples of ascending ages.
On the right hand inside pocket sat the Loud parents, Lynn Sr. tapping his right finger on the table and rotating his head around the venue trying to catch sight of whoever could possibly be their host. They had luckily made it in time for the event, yet the organizer had not. Rita checked the underside of her left wrist again, 'Twelve minutes late.' She noted mentally after getting a new reading from her white and gold analog watch.
"So…" Lynn finally broke the silence. "I don't think I caught anyone's names yet. Should we start the introductions since we have time?" He asked as if there was anything else they could do. "Why don't I start? I'm Lynn Loud, and this is my wife, Rita." "Hi, nice to meet you." Greeted said wife. "And we've been married for, gosh, almost twenty years now?" The middle-aged man smiled to his wife for confirmation. "Eighteen, sweetie." She happily corrected while wrapping his left arm over her shoulder. "That's right, eighteen wonderful years." The husband said to his wife, snuggling closer, getting in the Valentine's Day mood and losing themselves in their own little world.
A cough from the seat opposite theirs reminded them they weren't alone, emanating from a man giving a 'Hi, we're here too' wave. An East Asian couple that looked to be in their early thirties smiled awkwardly at the two, feeling conflicted about interrupting their moment. Even though they started the conversation and immediately left (mentally) after five seconds.
"Hi, uh, I'm Jon. Jon Saotome." Jon wore a white T-shirt with a black sport jacket and blue jeans, a pair of 'Obverse All Pros' accentuated the casual look. His fluffy black hair was parted 7:3 with his bangs sweeping left to right over his glasses, his clean-shaven face framed by sideburns. "And I'm Beth. We've been together for three years." She said putting her right hand over Jon's left on the table. Beth wore a black cardigan over a tasteful white low-cut T-shirt, enclosing a silver pendant necklace, matching her husband's look with slightly darker skinny jeans and black flats. Her long, straight, raven hair and bangs complemented her frameless glasses.
"Um, I guess we should add more to this. Uh, we're Website Designers." Jon remarked, unsure if he was breaching protocol. "Jon does the programming and site design, I make the graphics and artwork. We work our business from home." Beth followed up. "Wow! You guys are entrepreneurs too, huh? I just started my own restaurant; I'm a Chef!" Lynn Sr. proudly proclaimed. "And I'm a Dental Assistant, but I'm also an aspiring Novelist. My first work is just about to be published!" Rita gushed. The younger couple just smiled and nodded.
They looked to the next couple sitting beside the Saotome's. "Hi~ I'm Eliza Pasconelli. And this is my Boyfriend, Taylor. Taylor, put your phone down." The young Italian woman said sweetly and in one fluid sentence, not changing her tone even when scolding her beau. Taylor looked up with a 'Hm?' followed by an 'Oh!' as he quickly put his smartphone in his pocket and sat up to shake the six other's hands. "Hey, Taylor Christianson. Advertising and marketing. How you doing?" Everyone gave a polite 'Pleasure.' and 'Nice to meet you.' in return as he made the rounds. The handsome black man wore a very stylish shiny blue silk shirt tucked into black slacks with a leather belt matching his black dress shoes. He sported a silver college ring from Michigan State on his right hand and a tiny diamond earring in his left ear. An impeccable chinstrap beard accentuated his jawline, meeting with a tidy, uniform crew cut.
"I work as a Hairdresser, by the way." It certainly showed with her stylized beehive hairdo. It wasn't a high one, as much of her hair was free to wash down her left shoulder in a sort of ponytail, her bangs fashioned to look like an ocean wave going left to right. A red tube top was clearly chosen to showcase her ample bosom, while the denim jacket kept her arms from getting cold in the chilly weather. Black leggings made her legs and thighs seem longer and slimmer than they were. The black, full calf platform boots trying to enhance her height and buttocks. "We've been dating for a year now, and we saw this and thought, 'Why not?' you know?"
'Why?' seems like the better question, to be honest. Royal Woods isn't exactly a thriving entertainment community; the most exciting place in town is The Warbler, the only karaoke bar in the state of Michigan that has all their songs available in Esperanto. The two were young enough, urban enough, and professional enough to spend the day at trendy restaurants and venues in the city, why go all the way out to the suburbs? Lynn decided to just let it go and focus on the last couple sitting next to his wife.
The elderly pair looked like they could be in their late eighties, possibly nineties. The lady's energy was bursting at the seams, eager to get in on the conversation. She was certainly spritely despite her thin appearance; her floral-patterned dress fit like it was on a hanger. Her teal open-toed pumps matched the hue of her white curls, the standard issue hairstyle of a blue-haired biddy. Costume jewelry jangled with each of her animated gestures; she must have had three bracelets on each hand and two necklaces, at least.
"Hello~! It's so nice to meet everyone! I'm Matilda, and this is my husband, Mortimer." She presented the skeleton thin man on her left with the mannerisms of a kitchen showcase model, both hands trying their best to say 'Tah-dah!'. Mortimer was slouching into his seat, oblivious to the world around him. He was dressed in his Sunday best, wearing a five-piece suit; brown coat and trousers, beige waistcoat, yellow button up shirt, and a red bowtie. His wingtip shoes were polished to a shine, although the dingy grey of his walker dimmed the effect a bit. A burnt umber, felt, pork pie hat was perched on top of his thin, curly, grey hair. On his nose sat the largest prescription of eyeglasses anyone at the table had seen. They looked like the bottoms of glass soda bottles set in a black frame; they were thicker than Lisa's!
The old matron prodded her husband to get his attention, "Morty? Don't just sit there say hello!" Morty was jolted out of his stupor. "Huh? What's that? We're out of yellow?" Matilda spoke a little louder, "No, Morty. Say hello!" "Ya' want stuffed Portobello?" "SAY HELLO!" She shouted right in his hearing aid. Morty didn't even wince, he just put his hands up and scolded, "Don't shout!" swatting down at nothing between words, clearly a routine he's done hundreds, if not thousands of times before with his wife. "I ain't deaf! Stop interrupting me while I'm trying to say hello here." He straightened up a little to address the table.
"Mortimer Williams, call me 'Morty' if you want. Former shoe brush salesman for sixty years. I must have traveled enough around the Tri-state area to go to the Moon and back six times." "We've been married for sixty-five years now!" Matilda said gleefully. "We haven't gone out in so long though, so this tour was perfect since it had a little bit of everything." "That's because the last time we went out, Mattie, you got your foot crushed by a fondue cart and I had an allergic reaction to an expired pierogi. It's no wonder we haven't been anywhere in five years; it's better to just stay home!" "Oh, Morty." Matilda rubbed his shoulder soothingly, knowing his complaints came from a place of concern. The two had known each other for a lifetime and had their communication dynamic down to a T.
"What else? Oh, we have four kids and six grandkids. They're already all grown up! We're even going to be great grandparents soon!" The rest of the table gave scattered congratulations on the news. "We, uh, also have a son at home with the sitter. David, he's two." Jon added with a small amount of pride. "Ugh, kids. No thanks. We've got more fun things to do, really." Eliza disparaged. "Oh, don't say that! You'll want some little ones too, eventually." Matilda was quick to wave off the young woman's negativity. "What about you two? You look like you have a few of your own." She directed at the Loud couple. Lynn couldn't help but chuckle, "Well, you could say that." A knowing glance at his wife. "We've got eleven wonderful children." Rita proclaimed.
Taylor did a spit take with his cherry soda, while Eliza's jaw dropped, her expression changed from shock to amused awe with an open-mouthed smile at the ridiculous statement. Jon's glasses somehow slipped down his nose, he readjusted them with his middle finger, the reflection of the lights obscuring his eyes from view. Beth brushed a stray bang from her eyes while silently mouthing the word 'Wow'. Matilda couldn't keep her joy contained, even with her hands over her mouth the squeal was still loud enough to hear over the crashing of pins and Morty's guffaw.
"Eleven~! Morty, did you hear that?" "I heard, I heard." He replied, implying it was nothing special. "Oh my goodness, you just don't see that anymore. Not since I was a little girl." "I'm the youngest of a litter of thirteen, so I got you beat there." "Tell me you have pictures!" Lynn raised his wallet, "I think we've got some." He flicked it open letting the Cascaded photo holder waterfall down to the floor. Rita opted for the smartphone approach, unlocking and going straight to the gallery app. Matilda followed suit, digging into her purse for her tablet and photo book.
The older couples got to work, swapping pictures, trading stories of child rearing mishaps, laughing at the especially messy and chaotic tales. "And then, Lana dropped a mud ball into Lisa's atom smasher, which exploded all over the living room! Everything had dirt fused to it at the subatomic level!" Rita let out a hearty laugh, along with Mattie. "Oh! Oh, that reminds me when our little Matthew ran a herd of neighborhood dogs through the house! He was riding a bloodhound pretending he was Crazy Horse! There are still paw prints in the kitchen tile." Another round of mirthful cackling erupted from the two matrons.
Lynn unfolded a nine by twelve portrait of the whole family for Mortimer's bad eyesight. "Who's the kid in the jersey?" "That's Lynn Jr., our little athlete." "Quite the strapping lad you got there." "She's a girl, actually." "Oh." Again, bad eyesight. "Who's the old man in the orange, your Father or the wife's?" Rita was the one to answer this time. "That's our son, Lincoln, though he did get his hair from my Dad."
The younger side of the table stared into the abyss of their future, coming to terms with what they would eventually turn into over the course of their lives. A red-headed woman with a perm made her presence known. Wearing a red coat jacket and white knee-length skirt, sprinting as fast as her black heels would allow her, ascot fluttering with each step. She arrived at the group's booth out of breath and scrambling to fix any flaws in her appearance. After a quick rubdown of the wrinkles in her clothes, she took a deep breath and put on a toothy smile, her white teeth contrasting with her ruby red lips, and in a professional guide voice, began her apology.
"Whew, I am so sorry everyone. Traffic was just killer!" Mugging her face into an exaggerated squeamish 'eugh' did not have the placating effect she hoped for. "Yeah, I can imagine Royal Woods has enough traffic on a Sunday morning to make someone…" Rita glanced at her wrist, "Forty minutes late." The perfect mixture of irritation and acrimony in her voice displayed how much of a bad impression the lady's tardiness left on Rita; she was not going to like this woman. "Well, you know, I caught the church rush." "Church doesn't get out until eleven." Rita was quick to point out in the most unamused, flat tone possible.
"Ok! So, welcome everyone to the South Michigan event planner agency's 'Valentine 'Venture'!" The guide forced the conversation in a new direction, unable to handle the blond woman's lie detection. Eleven kids will give you the supernatural ability to see through all forms of obfuscation. "I'm Sherri, with an 'i', and I'll be the one to make sure that all of you have the most fun, and romantic, Valentine's day ever!" "It's always a Sherri, isn't it?" Rita whispered to her husband. "I'm guessing you've already gotten introductions out of the way, so who's ready to get this day of dates started?" Sherri put in extra cheer to get her clients fired up, it only managed to garner some begrudging replies in the tone of 'better late than never' as the guests stood up to get their rental shoes. "That's the spirit! Remember, we're only booked for one more hour, and there are no refunds." "Of course there aren't." Rita muttered as she walked by.
Sunday, February 14th, 1216 Franklin Ave, Lori's Room, 10:02 AM
Lori sighed while looking at a box in her hands. The white and gold square didn't provide any answers no matter how much she thought about the facts. It arrived yesterday via candygram, accompanied by flowers, balloons, and a singing courier. Most of those weren't enjoyed, however, as Lori instantly ripped the package out of the delivery man's hands, just as he finished blowing his pitch pipe, and ran to her room screaming in joy. It was exactly what she wanted, her own box of Waldorff's, straight from her Bobby Boo Boo Bear, and it was a thirty-piecer! That Saturday morning was spent in absolute decadence as she ravaged morsel after morsel, restraining herself just before she could seriously be at risk for diabetes, though a part of her thought it would be worth it. Nonetheless, she wanted to enjoy them the entire weekend. Now, however, there was a problem pertaining to these very chocolates so troubling that Lori wasn't even bothered having them in full view of Leni and Lily, who were mulling over their own thoughts while lackadaisically playing on Leni's bed.
She had to check again, opening the box to find the last nine pieces that she managed to keep herself from consuming. Delayed gratification was not a trait common to Lori and her peers. Taking a random ball of the coveted confections, she used all of her self-control to slowly savor the taste, getting as accurate an estimate as possible. Her toes curled, her spine tingled, her shoulders shook as a shuddering moan of pure pleasure escaped her throat. They were just as good as she remembered them. She almost instinctively grabbed another before wrenching her arm back and taking one of Lincoln's, she's trying to test something, not gorge herself. A bite into the caramel square brought out the uncontrollable giggles again, as she remembered that time when she and Bobby sang those duets at that weird Esperanto karaoke place. A smile returned to her face as she swallowed, only to slowly fade as the confirmation didn't bring her any closer to an answer.
Between the Waldorff's and Lincoln's chocolates, the Waldorff's were objectively better tasting. Lincoln's aren't bad by any means, but it would be a stretch to say the first time creations of an eleven-year-old boy are on par with a one-hundred-year-old candy company. And yet she couldn't explain it, she almost seemed to prefer Lincoln's chocolates. Was it because they were handmade? Did Lincoln actually put in more effort? how much time did each of them spend on her? 'Okay Lori, think. A box of thirty costs seventy-nine ninety-nine, and Bobby works at his grandpa's bodega, tax-free, for minimum wage. Which means it would take ten hours of work for him to afford the Waldorff's alone. It was probably another four to six hours for the shipping, that's two day's wages!' In her mind, Bobby went above and beyond in showing his devotion to her.
'What about Lincoln? he spent eight hours making chocolates for ten girls, that's not a lot, right? I mean, what's the actual time? Sixty minutes times eight… just remove a zero to divide by ten girls and you get about… forty-eight minutes per-sister. That's not so much when you compare them.' She wasn't downplaying the effort, she just needed to get an accurate comparison. 'And as far as cost, he only spent five bucks on each of us, which is perfectly reasonable for a boy his age.' Clearly, Bobby spent more time, spent more money, and got the better tasting gift so the answer should be obvious.
And yet, for the life of her, she couldn't figure out why; why do Lincoln's chocolates make her feel better. She knew part of the answer, Lincoln's did what Bobby's didn't, they made her think about Bobby. 'Lincoln knew I would be lonely without seeing Bobby in person, so he made something to remind me of him. And Bobby worked extra hard in order to get me the perfect gift by today. They're both so alike; they're sweet, goofy, cute, reliable when you need them to be, good cuddlers… wait, what?'
Her thoughts were interrupted by a rhythmic knocking on the door. "Come in." Lori granted after shaking away her confusion. Luna walked in carrying her old wood guitar, followed shortly by Luan and her wooden friend, Mr. Coconuts. Luna reclined on Lori's bed. "Um, everything okay? You don't usually bring out the acoustic unless you're really worried about something." Lori asked in a concerned tone. "Just feelin' the moody blues, dude." She replied morosely as she tuned the strings.
Luan took a seat next to Leni and Lily, not as much pep in her step as usual, her mood seemed to even be affecting Mr. Coconuts. "I tell ya' toots, if that rain cloud over your head gets any bigger, I'm gonna start growing moss!" The puppet remarked. "Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Coconuts, it's just that my brainstorm isn't amounting to anything more than a brain drizzle." Luan lamented to her pal. Lola and Lana came in unannounced, followed by Lynn juggling a soccer ball, something she only did in the house if she was trying to think on a hard question. Everyone had the same look about them, a sort of somber, neutral expression that said they were feeling conflicted about something.
"Wait, are Lucy and Lisa coming?" Lori asked, scanning the room. "I'm right here." Spoke the pale girl from behind, scaring the daylights out of her big sister. She was sitting next to Luna on her bed. "Right, okay." Lori regained her composure. "Well, judging by the cheerful looks on everyone's faces, I guess we're all thinking the same thing. Does anyone want to talk about what we're going to do?" None of the girls looked like they had any ideas they were comfortable sharing, or any ideas at all, really. The only sound in the room came from a few plucks on Luna's instrument and the steady bounce of a soccer ball against Lynn's head. "Ugh!" Until she missed it that is.
"This is so frustrating!" Lynn growled to the whole room. "Look, I know the bar's been set a little high, but that's no reason to get this upset over chocolates." Lori scolded the Sportster. "It's not the chocolates!" Snapped Lynn, she started reining herself back in, realizing she was too wound up and sighed before continuing. "It's Lincoln. I mean, it's about Lincoln. I can't get him out of my head!" She scratched her noggin rapidly. "Well, yeah. That's why we're here; we're trying to think up a better last minute gift for Lincoln. It would be weird if you weren't thinking about him." Lola remarked with a tinge of annoyance, thinking Lynn wasn't giving helpful insight.
"What's weird is a good looking boy spending his entire Saturday making personalized Valentines for his sisters! Doesn't he have a crush or something?" Lynn stated back at the room, causing a few girls to stare quizzically at the short brunette. "Uh, did you just call Lincoln good looking?" Lana inquired. "What? No. I didn't say 'good looking'. Who said anything about Lincoln being good looking other than you?" Lynn retorted. "But you just said-" "Guys! Focus!" Lori put a stop to the recursive argument.
"It doesn't matter how good looking Lincoln is!" A few cocked eyebrows met the Freudian slip. Apparently, the question of if Lincoln is good looking already settled for a few girls at least. "But, Lynn makes a good point; does anyone know why he handmade his chocolates this year?" Lori asked the room. "He said something about them not being… good enough." Lola put a slight invective on the last two words. She really didn't like that phrase for some reason today.
"Where the heck did he get that idea?" Luan asked. "I don't know, we've never complained before, have we?" None of them could think of a single instance where they voiced displeasure with Lincoln's gifts, but at the same time, they couldn't think of an example where they showed a lot of gratitude either. Every year the siblings just exchanged their chocolates, said thank you, and went about their day engorging themselves with sweets. There was never a strong sentiment put into Valentine's before, and everyone was fine with that. Now, however, the presents brought new problems for each of the girls they weren't even able to identify, much less deal with. One thing was certain, this is way more than just guilt over gifts, and they needed to eliminate every possibility to figure out what was wrong with them.
"Maybe this was practice, and he wanted to test his skills on us first before giving them to another girl?" Lucy proposed. "Nah, he went out of his way to keep the fact they were for us a secret, even letting us think they were for other girls. If he wanted to practice, he would've asked for advice." Luna shot down the theory. "Is he trying to get something from us? Is this a bribe?" Lynn speculated. "It's the sweetest bribe I've ever gotten. But seriously, I don't think so. I didn't get any ulterior motives from him, and I know how to read people." Luan judged from her experience as an entertainer.
As the Congress of young women continued to deliberate, one girl's mind started thinking about the events from a less innocent perspective. She thought about how more than one person here could use the opportunity to… 'enlighten' the siblings of their actions; she remembered her emergency laxative. It seemed impossible, but every possibility needed consideration. Lola spoke with hesitation. "Girls, I know this is a long shot, but… you don't suppose Lincoln… put something in his chocolates, do you?"
"That would be a negative" Said Lisa as she closed the bedroom door, interrupting any outburst that could've been caused by Lola's query. "I've already run tests and broken down all the components in my gifts and found no extra ingredients, or any substance, that would make these confections compromised." Stated with the professionalism of a college lecturer, which she moonlights as every other Wednesday. "Why would you even check that?" Lori asked. "Because I too have experienced some strange emotions regarding our sole male sibling. And they seem to be more than just appreciation for his inadvertent help in my experiments. Speaking of which, would anyone care for some thermite jerky?" The genius said while holding up some dried meat, which Lana snatched in a heartbeat.
"Ok, but that still doesn't tell us why Lincoln made them in the first place." Lori sighed, thinking they were going in circles. If only they could get to the root issue, then maybe things would start to make sense. Maybe the weird feelings would go away if they just said what was really on their minds. "Why are these Valentines making me feel so weird?" Lori rubbed her temples as she vocalized her frustration.
"Because he loves us." All the girls looked around the room, trying to find where the voice came from. It took two seconds before they settled on the form of Leni, who was hugging one of her pillows, no longer needing to keep Lily occupied as she was also focused on the discussion. Lori was stunned, unable to make the connection between the two statements, coming dangerously close to a disturbing revelation.
"Um, right! Of course, he does. We all love each other; we're family!" Lori chose the most innocuous interpretation of Leni's statement. "But Lincoln said he made them with lots of love, right?" "Brotherly love, Leni." "Oh, right." Leni lifted her chin from her pillow in order to touch it with her finger, looking very deep in thought. "How's that different from regular love again?" She asked innocently. The room was caught off guard by that remark. It seemed like it was self-evident, but they actually had to stop and think for a minute to find the right way to explain such an abstract concept.
"Leni, when you're romantically in love with someone…" Lori searched her word bank. "It means you want to be with them, all the time." Said in a tone similar to a grade school teacher. Leni didn't really accept that answer. "But I feel like that about all of us, a lot of the time, every day. That doesn't sound different." Looks like they'll need to go further. The older girls wanted to avoid being too explicit because of the presence of the younger kids, so they chose their words carefully.
"Oh, I know! It's like he can make you laugh just by being there, and everything he does is a performance just for you." "And his act is never wooden, and nothing he does ever makes you board." Luan and Mr. Coconuts gave a duo answer in line with what they loved most, the stage. "Yeah, and you also want to hold them, touch them, and think of them when you're apart." Luna added.
"See, you don't feel that way about us, right?" Lori confirmed with Leni. "Well, no, not with you." "Exactly, that's the difference-" "But I feel that way about Lincoln." A stony silence fell over the room. "Could you elaborate?" Lisa queried. "No, but I guess I can, like, explain it better?" "That'll do."
Leni set her pillow on her lap and sheepishly pressed her fingers together, trying to find the best words to describe her feelings. "Ok, so like, you know how when you find the right pair of shoes to match your belt?" "Try again Leni, most of them are fashion illiterate." Lori reminded her airheaded counterpart. Leni huffed and decided to not think before she speaks, "I want to spend the entire day with Lincoln. Just the two of us." Lori thought they covered this. "That's not the same thi-" "And I want to see him smile… he looks best when he's smiling." The other girls nodded their heads unconsciously in agreement. "That's true, but what does that-" "And I want to hold his hand." A few fingers twitched around the room. "Well, he might be a little old for that-" "And I want to hug him, like suUuper tight, and hold him close and never let go." Lots of fidgeting occurred in the room after that. "Leni, that's a little-" "And… and…" The girl's excitement was reaching a peak with each escalation. "And I want to kiss him!" Leni shouted before muffling a squee with her pillow like the teenage girl she is.
"Leni! That's too much! You can't kiss your brother!" Lori reprimanded with flushed cheeks. The other girls' faces had tinges of pink as well. "Not even on the cheek?" Leni responded with the purity of a lamb. The oldest got a little redder, realizing Leni inadvertently made her seem like the one with impure intentions. "Just for clarification; did you have these feelings before today?" Lisa dug a little further. "Well… Before, I never got anything from a boy made with love just for me. So it's different now. I want to show him how his chocolate makes me feel. Doesn't everyone feel the same way?" The sisters nodded again, only this time Lori caught herself and quickly shook her head. She still wasn't convinced.
"That doesn't make sense Leni. If Lincoln putting love into his chocolates is what's making us so odd…" Lori reached for a box under her bed and set it on her nightstand. "Then how come this isn't making me feel anything?" She lifted the case, revealing a chocolate statuette of The Winged Victory of Samothrace with the arms and head reconstructed in Lori's image, holding her cell phone aloft. A piece of wing showing visible teeth marks. "That's what Clyde made for me this year, and I taped his gift to him after he passed out without a problem." Lori nibbled on her right arm while relaying the details. "Guess you have to have the same feelings back for it to work?" Lana said, chewing a wing. "Yeah, but I just tried that with Bobby's chocolates, and they weren't doing it either." Lori popped her head into her mouth. "I suspect the combination of oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine are the cause of our predicament." Lisa hypothesized with a piece of Lori's leg between her teeth.
"Uhm, in English?" Lola complained, biting into an arm. "The good feeling hormones produced by chocolate and physical touch are affecting our brains." Lisa put into layman's terms. "Wait, so that's what this is? Because we didn't wait thirty minutes to hug Lincoln after eating? That's why we're acting like girls with crushes?" Lynn remarked with Lori's torso in her hand. "We don't have a crush on our brother!" Lori snapped, almost a little too quickly. Perhaps she was miffed that sweet Nike decided to vacate her spot on the end table, leaving brown smudges on many fingers. "I'm saying it's possible. But you're right, it is out there. If this was all it took, it should have manifested in previous years." Lisa finished her thesis.
"You know what, while we're on the subject of crushes, how come none of you are on dates?" Lori instinctively needed the distraction. "What happened with the love letters?" Almost all the girls shrugged. "Didn't really go anywhere. Winston's too much of a mama's boy for my tastes." Winston only mentioned his Mother once, and only because Lola asked who's cooking was better while on a picnic. Answering as politely as possible, Winston had to side with his Mom, to which Lola's response was to shout, "Well why don't you date her instead if she's miss perfect!" before shoving the bowl of macaroni salad over his head. Big mistake on Winston's part, honestly.
"Yeah, and Skippy wasn't really compatible with the babies." El Diablo's affectionate hugs turned his face the loveliest shade of violet. Being allergic to Hops was also kind of a deal breaker. "David's lack of understanding in String Theory regrettably made him an unsuitable candidate for courtship." Translation: David still didn't know how to tie his shoes. "I couldn't go out with Chaz for his own safety; I didn't want to become a murderer!" His exact words were, "I would die of happiness if I went on a date with you!" which Leni, of course, took literally. Lily babbled something in what could be described as an irritated tone. "Lily says Teddy and her have hit a bit of a rough patch, to put it kindly." Lisa translated. Teddy is in the doghouse at the moment. No really, Charles is letting him crash there while the ol' lady cools off.
"Benny had this really annoying habit of speaking in Shakespeare quotes. I mean, seriously? Who talks like that?" Everyone in the room narrowed their eyes in a hard stare at Luan, especially Mr. Coconuts. "…What?" One mass eye roll later and it was Lucy's turn. "Silas had a girl on the side. I don't go for players." Lucy discovered his picture of Griselda (autographed by Kate Kaktus no less) in his wallet by chance. Pining for another man's lover was a step too far for Lucy, especially when the man is her undead crush. Surely the word 'Hypocrisy' would've appeared in one of Lucy's novels before, right? "What happened to Rocky?" Lori asked. "Despite Rocky being the most beautiful creature I've ever seen, I still couldn't deny my attraction to older men. Preferably by a few centuries." Lori pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Luna, how are things with Sam?" "Hm? Oh, great! Yeah, we just jammed yesterday. Had a blast. We're hanging out again after school tomorrow." Lori waited for more details… And waited… And waite- "Anything else!?" "Whatcha' mean, luv?" Lori's eye twitched. "I mean have you done anything other than band practice? Going out to eat? To concerts? Have you even kiss-" "Woah dude! Little personal don't you think!?" "Fine! Then just tell me what speed your relationship is developing at." "Well, ya' know… we're going on a slow ride, taking it easy. Not doing anything risky or messing up where we're at." Lori's expression grew flatter at each new idiom for 'no progress' that came from her sister's mouth. "So you're just hanging out with your best friend is what you're telling me?" Luna rubbed her chin for a second and said with a shrug, "Pretty much."
Lori grumbled and put her head in her hands. She peeked one eye out at her last hope. "Lynn?" Everyone leaned in, anticipation growing on their faces. Lynn shook her head. "Francisco's a Cubs fan." An eruption of groans and grumbles along with thrown up hands echoed within the room.
"Oh, come on! This is literally impossible!" Lori's disbelief was matched only by her frustration. "Why are all of you like this?" "Hey, it's not like you have anything going on. You're in the same boat we are." Luna pointed out, which brought a spattering of 'yeah's in her favor. "Oh, please. Bobby and I have a lovely day of video calling planned." Lori said triumphantly. The others were less than impressed. "Yeah, no. Face it, the only people in this house with any love life are currently getting 7-10 splits across town." Luan retorted, causing a few shudders in the room at the thought of middle-aged romance. "Well excuse me for thinking eight pretty girls wouldn't have trouble finding something to do on the most romantic day of the year!" "Dah!" "Fine, nine. Sorry, Lily." "Actually, she was saying you forgot Lana." Luan interpreted. "Hah! In your face!" Lana mocked the baby for her backfired insult, who gave a nasty raspberry in return.
"Well, I guess I was mistaken because it's clear you girls lack any womanly charm." "What's that supposed to mean?" Lynn said as she flicked a nugget of gold, freshly excavated from her nasal cavern, off her pinky. "See? This is our problem! The bickering, the crudeness, the impossible expectations! No wonder we can't get dates. I mean, Leni and I have battle armor sitting in the closet, just waiting for the right opportunity, completely going to waste." Lori gestured to the walk-in at her right to emphasize her point. "Battle armor? Are we at war!? Is Hazeltucky attacking again!?" Leni was well into a duck and cover position, holding her pillow over her head, trembling. "I still have flashbacks about the cowpie catapults!" Thankfully, these were recently reclassified as chemical weapons and subsequently banned from all future conflicts.
"No! Leni, I'm talking about our 'Special Pajamas'." Lori said with finger quotes. "What are you guys talking about?" Lynn asked. "They're talking about lucky underwear, dude." Luna clarified. "Oh, yeah I have that. How come you haven't worn them yet? I wore mine for my hockey game last month." "Yeah, and you still haven't washed them." Lucy chastised her roommate for letting them sit in the same spot in their room for the past thirty days. "Lynn, this is underwear to get lucky, not to be lucky." Luan tried to subtly clarify. "Wha? Oh, 'Night Game Gear'! I gotcha'. Yeah, I haven't had a match with that either." Lynn caught the general drift of the conversation, keeping the language coded for the sake of the younglings. "Why are you guys talking about Lingerie like that?" Lola proved it futile.
The older girls were taken aback by Lola's bluntness, and that a six-year-old knew what lingerie was. Speaking of which, "Lola, why do you know what that is?" Lori asked with trepidation, afraid of uncovering something far worse than her initial problems today. "Um, hello! I have fashion for all occasions. Real pageant pros are ready to look their best at all times, even in private." Lola answered haughtily, with some grace thrown in. "Uh-uh, no. There's no way a six-year-old should know anything about se-" Lori caught herself and was about to use an alternative until Lana spoke up. "Sex? We know what that is. What's the big deal?"
At that moment Lori's brain stopped working. One of her baby sisters had just said the 'ecks' word. All other concerns are null and void. "Lana… How do you know what… sex… is?" Her cadence was slow, and each word felt heavy, not that Lana noticed though. "Pfft! I'm two exams away from my animal husbandry license! Of course I know how us mammals breed. I just don't get all the lovey-dovey junk." The little zoologist stated matter-of-factly. "Plus, ever since I got over my reading problem, I've been looking at the same magazines as you and Leni." The pink princess added. "What the heck can you learn about sex from our magazines?" Lori asked.
Lola gave back a deadpan stare, she then picked up the nearest issue of Metropolitan and began speaking in the same manner as one of their plays used to get something from their parents. "Oh? What's this on the cover? "Color tips that will put the 'Spring' in your spring! Page thirty-eight." That's exactly what I need!" The hammy actress flips open the tome to the desired article. "Hmm… Very interesting." Her face gaining a smirk. "Oh! What's the next article? Page forty-two, "10 tricks to train your boyfriend to do with his tongue!" Number 10: The Rolling Lap. Get him started on Spanish conversation with this use of trilling. When he rolls his R's on your C, you're well on your way to El Dora-" The sound of gloss print being snapped up interrupted Lola, who maintained her poise and the smug satisfaction of proving her point. Lori chucked the mag on Leni's bed, red in the face. "We're switching to a digital subscription, Leni." "Aw… But my collages…" Pouted the designer.
"Anyone else want to tell me how much they shouldn't know?" Lori didn't care anymore, frustrating embarrassment replaced all her previous worries. "My books have made me intimately familiar with all the carnal desires of the flesh. One day I'll experience it with my immortal lover, but for now, I'll settle for artistic enjoyment." Lucy proved her Father right about her literature choices. "Yeah, very artistic." Lynn sarcastically remarked, before putting on her own little show. "And then his steaming flesh pole ruptured the barrier of my velvet curtains, the torrent of red and clear liquid matching the intensity of my pain and pleasure. I screamed ecstatically into his shoulder, feeling the sinews of his muscle with my teeth and tongu-" Lynn's mockery was cut short by a book thrown from her blushing roommate.
"I suppose you can guess that I've already learned the basics of biology, anatomy, and human social psychology. In fact, I could probably teach a whole course on sexual education right now." The lisping prodigy confirmed. Lily babbled out something of her own. "Oh god… What did she say?" Lori said into her hands again, giving up at this point. "She said she doesn't know much, but she knows a dang stork didn't bring us here." Lisa provided the translation.
"Great!" The eldest flared her arms and slapped them at her sides. "So everyone here knows how to 'do it'! What a wholesome family we turned out to be, right!? Just raise your hand if you've already gone all the way! Why keep secrets now!?" Lori yelled and clenched her eyes as she shot her hand up. "Well? Everyone done?" She took a peek and wished she had kept her mouth shut. Not a single other girl had their hand up. Lori wanted to bury herself in a hole. "Way to make me feel like the only shameless woman here, guys."
"Hey, that's not our fault! We just went over how we don't have boyfriends." Lynn rebutted. "If you're concerned about your reputation and standing with us; you're in a committed monogamous relationship with a man you regularly refer to as your 'soul mate' and keep a three-inch thick wedding journal about. It's normal that you would want to bond with each other." Lisa assured the eldest that she still had her moral authority. "Or… was it not with Bob-" "Yes, it was with Bobby! And only Bobby!" The flustered blonde answered curtly, cutting off any follow-ups.
"Still doesn't change that I haven't worn my outfit for him yet. I'm saving it for a really special occasion." She said dejectedly, wondering when that special occasion would come now that her boyfriend has moved three hours away. Despite the immense odds, the long distance hasn't torn a rift in them yet… well, physically yes, but not emotionally. A deep sigh escaped Lori's lips as she wondered out loud, "I wonder how far Lincoln's gone? He's a boy, after all, he's probably already curious about sex."
Lori's statement caused a few of the girls to chuckle. "What's so funny?" The blonde asked Luna, who was the first to laugh. "Nothing. Well, not really, it's just… kinda funny thinking about that kid doing anything spicy." Lori wasn't amused. "What's funny about imagining your little brother going to third base?" "You mean other than knowing he'll trip and get tagged out halfway there?" You'd think Lynn was referencing the wrong third base, but it's an accurate statement in both situations. "That, and it's funny because I can't imagine it. Oh man, let me tell ya' about three weeks ago."
Saturday, January 23rd, 1216 Franklin Ave, 2nd Floor Hallway, 1:57 PM.
Luna wanted to get Lincoln's opinion on her newest song, as usual. What stopped her from barging into the room uninvited like always was an arrhythmic noise emanating behind his thin closet walls. Pressing her ear to the door, she could make out the sound of skin slapping skin and denim, some of those smacks sounding as if they were coming from his laptop speaker. A quick recoil and 'Blech!' brought her back. 'I didn't think he would start doin' that already.'
She turned around to look at the chaos in the hallway as the other girls were running amok. 'Thought he had more sense than to buff the banana at two o'clock on a Saturday.' Resolving to teach her brother the proper etiquette, she used some for the first time by knocking and clearing her throat, announcing her presence. "Who is it?" The boy replied, not stopping whatever activity he was engaged in, which put Luna off more than a little. "It's me, dude. Can I come in? I need to rap with you about somethin'." She put on her serious voice for this. "Luna? Perfect timing! I need your help with this. Come on in!"
Luna was dumbstruck; she questioned whether she heard that right or if the years of power amps cranked up to eleven have finally broken her ears. 'No way! My little bro wants me to help him polish his knob? I'm gonna straighten this out before it gets worse.' Luna took a deep breath and clenched her eyes shut as she quickly entered the converted linen closet, closing the door as fast as possible so it would expose no one in the hallway to the horror within. She could still hear the slaps, uninterrupted by her entrance.
"Seriously bro, what the heck! I know I may seem like the 'cool sis' and whatnot, but I have my limits too, mate!" The rocker was ready with her sermon as she slowly opened her eye to take a peek, both out of damage assessment and curiosity. "And this definitely goes way beyond those lim- What are you doing?" The sight before her changed her tune from one of indignation to bewilderment.
There sat Lincoln, fully clothed, in his chair, hitting his legs and arms open-handed, while an old man on his laptop did the same. "Hey, Luna! I can't get the hang of this 'hambone' thing yet. Can you give me some pointers?" Hambone: A style of folk music that uses one's own body as a percussive instrument. "Yeah, no." Luna remarked as she calmly closed Lincoln's laptop and gently guided him out into the hallway. "Let's get you some drumsticks if you're gonna lay a beat, bro." She said as they were walking to her room.
Sunday, February 14th, 1216 Franklin Ave, Lori's room, 10:18 AM
"I tell ya, he makes a grown woman cry sometimes. Ya' know?" Luna punctuated her story. Sure enough, some of the women in the room had tears in their eyes, because they were holding back their laughter. "I can corroborate Luna's account with the additional information that I have found no seminal fluid in Lincoln's bedroom or trash bin. We can assume he has yet to discover masturbation." The Poindexter of the group surmised.
"Alright, admittedly he's a little immature. But he's definitely shown interest in girls, so he must be attracted to them physically, right?" Lori said through a few giggles. "True, Lincoln is a sucker for a pretty face. But that's just natural mate selection based upon features which indicate lack of genetic health issues and deformities which produces healthy offspring. If you're assuming Lincoln wants to get closer to girls because of sexual attraction, I believe living in the company of several women has completely dispelled any mystique of the female form for him. That, and he's in 5th grade." Lisa explained in her usual pleonastic matter that Lincoln basically isn't thinking about sex yet. "Wait, what does having ten sisters have to do with not being curious about girls bodies?" Lynn asked. "Need I remind you of the "Spring Forward" incident?" Everyone went into a flashback.
Monday, March 14th, 1216 Franklin Ave, Second Floor Bathroom, 8:06 AM
"Stupid daylight savings time." Lincoln muttered scrubbing himself down as quickly as possible, trying to ignore everything outside the shower curtain. Regrettably, the outside didn't ignore him. "Hey, Lincoln." "Gah!" The soapy boy yelped, trying to cover his shame from the intruding head that breached the plastic barrier.
Apparently, no one remembered to set their clocks forward the previous day, resulting in everyone having a late start this Monday morning. The entire second floor was in a frantic rush to get ready for school. They couldn't afford the luxury of going one at a time in the bathroom, so it was a free for all with as many siblings as possible.
"Leni! A little privacy, please!" He remarked, annoyed by the interruption, not that she noticed. "Sorry Lincoln, but can you hand me my razor? I can-not go out looking like a Yeti! My social life would be ruined!" Lincoln grumbled and quickly handed his beauty obsessed sister her pink safety razor without argument, knowing it was the easiest course of action. "Thanks, Lincoln! Oh! Don't forget to water your crops." That needed an explanation. "My what?" The boy asked, dumbfounded. "Mom said you were growing potatoes in your ears. I didn't know you were a farmer?" "Neither did I." He said sardonically as he grabbed a washcloth and went to town on his canals.
Even with his ear plugged, Lincoln could make out the sound of Lori grunting and huffing in front of the mirror. "Hnngh! Dang it! Lincoln, can you hook my bra from back there?" She requested as if she were only asking him to pass the salt. "Kinda busy right now." The prospector said while mining deeper into his cranium. "Come on, you're literally the only one with a free hand right now, so put it to use." she sternly said while opening the curtain to give her little brother access to her back. "Ugh! Fiiine." The boy whined, setting down the washcloth and getting to work. He somehow managed to clasp the brassiere together with his wet hands, which made Lori eep on the first contact. The sight of bare back and side boob not fazing the pre-adolescent one bit; if they didn't care about seeing him naked, he would care even less about seeing them.
"Thanks, Lincoln. Oh, shoot! We're still falling behind!" Lori exclaimed after glancing at her phone clock. "Lola! Lana! Lisa! In the shower, on the double!" The eldest commanded her platoon. "Oh, come on! I haven't washed my hair yet!" Lincoln griped. "No buts! Make some room Lincoln, we're late as it is." There was no use in debating. "Frankly, I don't see why this is an issue. You've probably changed our diapers on more than one occasion. Why get embarrassed now?" The mop-headed toddler made a valid point for a different argument. "I'm not embarrassed, I'm annoyed. Now it's going to take twice as long for me to get done." Lincoln shot back. "Well, then you should stop wasting time by complaining, shouldn't you? Now scoot." The snarky pageant queen said as she shoved him to the side.
The other, less elegant blonde quickly rinsed herself in the water spray and then tried to hop out in less than two seconds. "Done! See you downstairs!" A pair of hands stopped her, lifting the girl by her armpits. "Ah-bup bup! Where do you think you're going?" Lincoln rhetorically asked. "What? I made it quick. Now you have more time, and I don't have to bathe. It's win-win." Lincoln wasn't buying it. "No, it's win-lose for the rest of us, especially if I have to sit next to you in Vanzilla. Come here, let's do this right." Lincoln set the pouting gremlin back down and got the washcloth lathered with soap. He scoured the fidgeting child as best as he could, flaking off layer after layer of dirt and grime. Lincoln cleaned his sister the same way a parent would their own offspring; firm but careful, taking no guff and having no interest in anything other than the task at hand.
"Yeesh! You've got a bumper crop of spuds growing too, don't you?" He remarked as he cleaned Lana's ears. He finished with a shampoo rub of her wavy hair. 'How can they be identical twins and have different hair?' Thought the boy as he toweled Lana like he was buffing a car. "There, much better." He smiled at his own handiwork. "Thanks, I guess." Lana said sarcastically as she exited the tub. The five-minute exchange was long enough for Lisa and Lola to finish. "All yours." Lisa said as she and Lola stepped out. "Finally." Lincoln lathered his hair as Lola plugged her nose, passing by Lynn on the toilet, doing her morning business, reading a sports almanac. "Gross! Haven't you heard of a courtesy flush?" The athlete rolled her eyes. "Sorry, not all of us poop glitter and rainbows." She scoffed while reaching for the handle. "Courtesy flush? Wait! No, don't-" The neighbors could hear Lincoln's scream for half a mile as the old plumbing increased the water temperature.
Sunday, February 14th, 1216 Franklin Ave, Lori's Room, 10:24 AM
Back in the present, the temperature of the room was also rising. This was due to the steaming faces of several blushing girls. Why were their faces so flushed? Because the memory brought them images of their brother's nubile, young naked body. Why was this an issue now? They didn't think anything of it then, they didn't think anything of it recently, heck most of them thought seeing him in his underwear was gross. That was before they ate his chocolates this morning. In addition to the already muddying feelings of arousal, some girls felt a deep sense of shame and embarrassment.
Lola facepalmed herself, she touched Lincoln's thigh when she pushed him in the shower. Her hand came dangerously close to his 'Family Jewels'. Leni was buried in her pillow, mortified at the thought of her baby brother seeing her in an unkempt state. Lana pulled her hat over her face, probably the most abashed of the bunch. Just recalling the way her brother forcefully, yet carefully, handled her sent tingles down her spine. Even though there was nothing sensual or erotic about the experience, she couldn't help but feel giddy that she got such personal attention from her big brother. The shame came, however, from the circumstances of that special care; that she was such a filthy little urchin capable of surpassing even Lincoln's high tolerance levels of discomfort. The feeling in her chest started to tighten.
"We may be a bit too comfortable around each other." Lori sheepishly said. "This is what happens when you treat him like 'one of the girls' I guess." Lynn spoke while fidgeting with her bangs, trying to get some oddly pleasant images out of her head. "Whether it's due to his age or our constant exposure, it's clear Lincoln doesn't have any copulative motivations yet when it comes to courtship." Lisa reestablished, looking unaffected. "Wait, wait. What about the positives? Like, what if living around girls makes him better at romance?" Lori grasped at straws. "I can tell you that's not the case." Lucy began to weave a yarn.
Saturday, May 21st, 1216 Franklin Ave, 2nd Floor Vents, 3:09 PM
Lucy was absorbed in her pastime of poetry writing, taking refuge in the sanctity of the houses ventilation system. She was about to jot down the perfect rhyme for 'axel' when she was interrupted by a conversation from Lincoln's room. With her concentration broken, the little goth decided to take a break and see what her brother was up to. Peering through the grate, she spied on her sibling and his best friend, Clyde, doing what could be called cute in one sense, or pathetic in another. They seated Lucy's bust of Edwin at a candlelit table across from Lincoln, a picture of a random girl taped to its face.
"Alright, Lincoln. You're at a romantic dinner with your crush. The lighting is low, it's just the two of you. You look into her eyes; what do you do next?" Lincoln thinks for a moment, before answering optimistically, "Hold her hand." A loud whistle startles the snow-topped lad as his friend calls a foul. "Wrong! Start with a compliment. Tell her she looks lovely; she spent a lot of time looking good for this, you know." Lincoln stammers a bit looking for something to praise about the statue.
"Ah, umm… your teeth!" The boy switches to a relaxed pose, hand under his chin, elbow propped on the table, a seductive glance with a grin. "Your fangs look enchanting this evening, the way they glimmer in the candlelight. You know, appreciation for good oral health kinda runs in my family." Apparently, Dental Hygienist is an inherited trade now. Mom will be so proud. Lucy let loose a sigh from her hiding place.
"Hmm… good enough. Alright, now that the pleasantries are out of the way, what do you do next?" Without missing a beat, the romancer in training exclaims, "Hold her hand!" Once again a screeching whistle knocks him down. "Lincoln! Control yourself, man! Only a cad goes for hand-holding before the third date. What happens next is conversation. Talk about your interests, but don't hog the discussion. And remember, no religion; no politics." Lincoln nodded getting back in his chair, rubbing his ringing ear.
"*Ahem* So… Read any good books lately?" Silence was all the plaster date returned. "Oh, I've heard of that. My sister recommended it to me. How is it so far?" The quiet was deafening. "Wait, wait wait! Don't spoil it! Sorry, I want to go into it fresh. But, that reminds me of this latest Ace Savvy were Ace has to rescue One-Eyed Jack from the Card Countess before she- What's that? Oh! Sorry, no spoilers. Right." Lucy smacked her forehead.
"All right stop right there. You were doing fine until you started talking about comics. Girls want a man of culture, not a little boy. Keep your hobbies to yourself until you've been together for one month." Lincoln didn't get it, but he acted like he understood anyway. "Got it. Now can I hold her hand?" Another blow of the whistle gave him his answer.
"Lincoln Loud! How many times am I going to have to tell you to keep it in your pants, mister!" "But you said it was bad manners to put my hands in my pockets?" "It's a metaphor! For what, I don't know, but the point stands. Honestly, can't you think of anything else to do in this situation?" Clyde had turned around, crossing his arms, waiting for Lincoln's answer. Lucy by this point had been on the verge of pulling her hair out, and could hold back no more as she shouted in her dreary voice, "Just kiss her!"
Clyde spun around with a shocked gasp at the equally stunned boy who was wondering where that came from, thinking it possible that it actually was his inner desires. "I can't believe this. You need to learn some self-control young man! I'm leaving before I become an accomplice to something depraved." The offended child reprimanded as he stormed out of the deviant's room. "But I-" *Slam!* The boy sighed, slouching over the tableware with a defeated look, his noggin supported by his arm again. He looked at his company for the evening. "So, you want to split the bill or…" The taped picture came loose and floated under the gap of Lincoln's door, sticking him with the check. The hopeless kid groaned as he face-planted the table, draping his crutch arm over his crown.
Sunday, February 14th, 1216 Franklin Ave, Lori's room, 10:29 AM
"I've seen zombies with smoother moves than him." The eerie little girl finished her tale. There were a few more chuckles in the room, however, they were tinged with pity. Each story gave the girls a better understanding of their brother's innocence. But they also painted a picture of a lonely boy trying to navigate an awkward time in his life. He'd had a close relationship before with Ronnie Anne, so they all thought he was already experienced in that regard. But maybe he needed more than that?
"What about outside the house? How does he act around other kids? Luan, he helps you out at parties, right? What's he like there?" Lori got no response. "Luan?" She was nose deep in that issue of Metropolitan. "Luan!" Mr. Coconuts poked his head out from inside the magazine, and then nudged his partner once he realized they were up. "Huh? What!?" The teenybopper shut the salacious mag and hid it behind her. "Sorry, what was the question?" Lori glared at her sister. "Lincoln. Parties. Other kids?" "Oh! Right, right right. Well… let's just say he's always flirting with disaster."
Sunday, June 12th, 788 Jefferson St, Backyard, 12:12 PM
Another day, another dollar and some cake for Luan as she performed for a new crowd of pre-teens. Lincoln was helping as a stagehand again in exchange for a little spending money, and dessert, of course. During the after show cleanup, Luan noticed a few girls around Lincoln's age sneaking peeks at the boy and tittering as he loaded up the props from the day's production. Luan couldn't help grinning and sauntered over to her little helper. "*Psst* Hey, Lincoln." The boy quizzically looked at his sister, wondering why they were whispering.
"Yeah? What's up, Luan?" Her Cheshire smile grew as she pointed his head at the chirping little chickadees. "See those ladies over there?" "Uh huh… And?" "Well, apparently they brought their library cards with them because they've been checking you out for a while now! Get it?" The comedienne gently nudged his ribs, eliciting a nervous laugh from the tickling and the innuendo. "Haha… Good one, Luan." He smiled and went back to his work, but was quickly interrupted as Luan spun him around again, this time looking more serious. "Lincoln! I wasn't joking. Those gals are into you! Go talk to them." Her voice almost sounded like she was pleading with him, her eyes told him she was just trying to help.
Lincoln looked at her, and then looked at the girls, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. "You really think so?" "I know so, buddy." A reassuring smile on her face. Lincoln straightened his shirt, checked his hair, took a deep breath and put on his best suave look as he strutted towards his marks. A push from behind gave him a speed boost, he looked back to see his sister winking and giving a thumbs up, "Go get 'em, tiger!" The confident boy returned his own wink and thumb, stopping himself just before bumping into the trio of pre-teens.
"Hey! Great party, right?" A good start, they didn't walk away yet. "Yeah, really great. We especially liked the show." The curly haired brunette spoke for the group, her finger twirling the rim of her red cup. "Oh really? Well, what would you say was your favorite part?" Lincoln leaned forward, trying to strike a casual pose, legs crossed, hands on hip and picnic table, or what he thought was the table. Lincoln fell to the ground as the cake tray he used as a support flipped above him, showering him with marble sheet frosted goodness, courtesy of whoever left it hanging halfway off in the first place. The girls snickered at the amusing scene before them. "Yeah, we really liked the physical humor. You guys are great at pratfalls."
Lincoln recovered quickly, collecting himself and getting back into character. "Haha. Yeah, well, when it comes to comedy, we really," He licked some frosting from his thumb, "take the cake." He said with an eyebrow wiggle, eliciting more giggles from the girls, and a laugh from Luan at her spot backstage, "Good one!" Again, Lincoln attempted a cool posture by putting his leg up on the picnic table, only to have a loose seat board kiss him hello. The kid must've been born under the star of Buster Keaton. Luan winced and hissed at the sight, thinking that had to hurt, in more ways than one. He could hear the girls' laughter through the dull pain and his own groans, getting back on his feet. "Like, how do you do that? You're so funny! You have to give us your number!" Lincoln thought his goose egg was making him hear things. "Wait, really!? I mean," 'Play it cool, Loud, be aloof.' "Sure, I can do that for you." He said, clicking a pen, ready to sign some hands. "Great! I can't wait to book you guys for my party."
And there it is. "Right, the business number. Of course. Your fun is our business after all!" A cloud of cardstock fluttered to the ground as Lincoln managed to whip out three yellow rectangles. "Dang it." The girls were further impressed by what they thought was a skit and showed it with more uproarious laughter. "Tha~nks!" The young ladies said in a chorus as they grabbed a card. "Okay, I'll catch you guys later. Stay beautiful!" He said walking backward, shooting some finger guns in their direction. "Bye~." The girls harmonized as they waved.
About halfway back, Lincoln turned forward and let his shoulders slump as he exhaled, dejected. His ears picked up some gossip. "So what did you think of that boy?" The redhead asked. "He's cute, but a bit too goofy for my taste." The girl who led the conversation with Lincoln responded. "Yeah… But he has a great butt!" The Blonde exclaimed, causing the group to joyously shout 'Eeew!' and laugh at their naughtiness. The tushy being lauded was covered by said blushing boy's hands as he sheepishly plodded back to the prop table. Luan's face furrowed in guilt, thinking she might have put Lincoln in an uncomfortable situation with her meddling.
"I'm sorry Lincoln… Are you okay?" The lad looked at the worried face of his sister, it gave him the motivation to cheer up, at least for now. "Yeah, I'm great! Your awesome brother just used his networking talents to score three new clients." The little salesman bragged. Luan had to chuckle at that, both out of amusement at his smugness and relief at his optimism. "Well, that's good to hear. But seriously, those girls don't know what they're missing. It's not everyday someone as sweet," she grabbed a piece of cake from his hair, "and as funny as you comes along, ya know?" She gave a reassuring pat on his shoulder as she chomped down the dessert, getting a laugh out of the boy.
"Thanks, Luan. That means a lot. But really, I'm fine. Anyway, I gotta get back to packing the rubber chickens and bowling balls." He said walking back to prop trunk. "Sure, thanks for the help. Remember what you said; you're an awesome brother." Lincoln gave Luan a thumbs up, which she happily returned. Her gaze shifted back to the girls, engaged in their own conversation, and pondered what went wrong. She's normally so good at reading the mood. She didn't have much time to dwell on that though, as the trio started laughing again while looking towards the stage. Looking back, she couldn't help giggling herself as Lincoln was in the middle of cleaning the cake off with the seltzer water.
"Classic." Luan mused to herself as her custom extra wide nozzle blasted the boy from head to toe with carbonated water. The fun was over though when she saw him after the fact. Normally when someone gets splashed in the face, they get mad, laugh it off, or at least look annoyed. Lincoln's expression was a completely blank slate, not deadpan, just neutral as if nothing mattered. Luan noticed he was staring at his reflection in the bottle, and looked at the ground when she saw the deep sigh he let out before packing it in the trunk. There was nothing funny about that.
Sunday, February 14th, 1216 Franklin Ave, Lori's Room, 10:38 AM
"I've never seen someone look so… empty after getting spritzed before. It's just not right." Luan ended her story. There was no laughter this time. Heck, Leni had tears in her eyes. Lola was running through several devious plots, showing those girls just what a great deal they passed over. Lynn was unexpectedly calm, she was just shaking her head, thinking 'That's to be expected.'
"It's, um… it's pretty clear that Lincoln is old enough to take an interest in girls. I mean, of course, we knew that already, but now we know how much of an interest he has at least." Lori put a positive spin on the tetralogy of tales. "That, and how little he knows in how to interact with them." Lisa added. "Hey, I think he handled those slip-ups pretty well. Not many guys can stay frosty in those situations." Luan defended her brother's performance. "That's because he was putting on an act, Luan. He always pretends to be cooler than he is when meeting new girls." Lori lamented. "Which is sad, because we told him he should just be himself." She said, wondering why he rejected their advice.
"And how has that been working out for him so far?" Lisa queried. The girls looked at each other, hoping someone had a good story. "Ronnie Anne! She likes Lincoln for himself. And they've kissed!" Lori was optimistic that her case study was definitive proof of her theory. "But they're just friends now, dude. And it's iffy they were dating in the first place." Luna discredited her study. "Plus, I think that new girl is also just friends with him right now." Luan reminded everyone of the girl with the yellow bow. "Now that I think about it, he never got a response from his love letter either, did he?" Lynn dealt a painful blow. "I've seen him with a girl at school, but I'm pretty sure she's one of his guy friends." Lucy recalled the lass with a braided ponytail seen in Lincoln's cadre of curiosities.
"Well, it seems the evidence speaks for itself. All the girls that like Lincoln for himself tend to only view him as an acquaintance. It's completely logical that he would try to be someone he's not if his goal is to gain a romantic partner." Q.E.D. in Lisa's corner. Lori couldn't refute her, she just thought about her little brother. She thought and thought and couldn't find anything that would make him unappealing to the opposite sex, which was weird because on a normal day she would have a foot long list of why he was an annoying little twerp. "What's wrong with all the girls around here?" She asked no one in particular. "Nothing's wrong with them." Was everything she said going to be contradicted today?
"What do you mean, Lynn?" Lori responded with narrowed eyes. "Look, don't get the wrong idea. I think Lincoln's the sweetest, funniest, most adventurous, all-around good guy I know." 'That's a lot of positive adjectives for a boy you think has no game.' Lori snarkily thought. "But, there's no denying Lincoln's just not dating material yet. The hopelessly cute nerd thing only lasts so long until a girl needs more excitement. He can't keep someone's interest if he's always on the bench is what I'm saying." Her sports analogies driving the point home.
"I think he's fine the way he is…" Leni said under her breath, taking offense at the notion Lincoln was deficient in some way. "Yeah, I agree, but he won't get anywhere until he learns a thing or two about love." Luan gave her frustrated sister a calming shoulder rub. Leni knew they meant well, but she couldn't help but take what Lynn said as a criticism of her taste for some reason. "I know… But does he have to get hurt so much while doing it?" The idealistic young woman wondered. "That's life, I suppose. Lincoln is just going to have to go through the trial on his own. We can be there to give him advice or help him out with any problems, but we can't give him the experience he needs that socializing with other girls can." Lisa, ever the realist, laid out the facts of life.
Lori needed another fix after that depressing realization, taking another chocolate from her bag. "Dwelling on this isn't getting us any closer to a thank you gift, you know? What can we do for Lincoln that really shows how much we appreciate him?" Lori switched the subject back to the original issue. "Put some sauerkraut on a peanut butter cup, give him a thank you card, and a kiss on the cheek," Lisa looked in Leni's direction, causing the blonde's face to flush. "and move on. These feelings are only temporary. I'm sure we'll be back to normal on Monday when your supply of confections will have no doubt run out by then." Lisa adjusted her glasses, thinking she had given the best solution.
The room seemed resigned to that suggestion, though everyone felt it was lacking at best. Lori took a bite of her valentine, thoughts of everything they discussed swirling in her head. The fact that each girl was alone on the most romantic day of the year, with lingerie gathering dust, waiting for Mr. Right to come along and woo them. That the one boy in the group was possibly the most isolated because of his inexperience, and there was nothing they could do to help. The irony that the same boy made them all feel so special and loved, despite having no skill in romance, just by putting in a little extra time and effort. Feeling like garbage that she couldn't do the same for him. Lori did not get a trip down memory lane this time. Instead, she got an idea.
Lincoln sat at his desk going over his homework and prepping for his next test. He looked more stressed than normal, with his heel tapping the floor and his fingers scratching his scalp as he tried his best to work through the assigned problems. A knock on his door prompted an irritated "I'm busy." from the boy. "It's Lori. Do you need any help with your homework?" Almost immediately his mood improved. "Yeah, I could use some advice. Come on in." The door opened slowly as Lincoln organized his stack of papers, getting all the troublesome questions in order. "Okay, I need some help with prime factorization in math. And then for biology, I can't seem to remember the difference between classification leve- Buh… Buh…" The worksheets fell to the ground after Lincoln got a look at his big sister.
Her usual blue flats were replaced with black high heels. Her khaki shorts were traded for a black faux leather skirt, the high-waisted kind that went up past her midriff, tightly outlining her stomach and pelvic bones. A white long sleeve blouse for the top, tucked into that deadly bottom, unbuttoned for an easy view of her cleavage. Her hair was tied back into a bun to give the illusion of professionalism, it only made her ensemble more seductive. A pair of fake glasses and a ruler in her hand accessorized the school marm look. Not an ounce of shame was on her smug face as she squatted down to pick up the loose paper, making sure to give the flustered lad a full look down her bosom. She put her hand on his thigh and gave it a squeeze as she used his leg for support to stand back up, eliciting a gasp from the child.
"You know Lincoln, sometimes it's good to… take a break whenever you're stuck on something." She leaned in front of him as she set the papers back on his desk, nearly smothering him with her breasts. "But, if you're so intent on studying, why don't we start with…" A sultry pause as she went behind his chair, her hand caressing his chest, tracing his collarbone from shoulder to shoulder. "Health and physical education." The home tutor ran the edge of her ruler along the underside of her trapped pupil's chin, lifting his head back with a moan as she took pleasure in seeing his throat nervously try to swallow his spit. She slid her free arm down his chest, his stomach, his pelvis, feeling them hitch with every breath. Her hand hovered just above his crotch, and she whispered hotly into his ear, "Let your big sister teach you how to be a… healthy boy." She grabbed his groin as she bit his earlobe.
Lori snapped back to the real world with a deep inhale as if she forgot to breathe for an hour. It was only ten seconds. Her eyes were wide and her face looked like it had been sunburnt, but the heat was internal. 'Oh God, I know what this feeling is.' She was no longer in her state of denial, the thing she wanted to reject the whole meeting being accepted. Everything became clear with that fantasy. "I guess if no one has any other suggestions…" Lori's neck whipped back to her siblings. 'It's now or never, Lor.'
"Wait!" All eyes shifted to the sweaty teen. "I… have an idea." She put on a too wide smile, trying badly to cover up any reticence to what she was about to propose. "What if, instead of letting Lincoln stumble and get his heart broken over and over again… how about we teach him about romance, and give him all the experience he'll need?" A few quirked eyebrows appeared as they thought it over. "I guess that's something we could do." Said Luan. "Hold on, how are we supposed to teach him about romance? We're not exactly the best dating examples, remember?" Lola remarked. "But you can teach him what girls like because you are girls. And, maybe, you can learn something from him about boys too?" She had to admit, it was intriguing.
"How much do you intend to teach him? How far is it going to go?" Lori's biggest obstacle spoke up. "As far as you want it to go, I guess?" She tried to play it off. "And how far do you want to go?" Lori's eyes were swimming now. "Um…" She hadn't planned on how to get everyone on board so quickly just yet. "Do you want to talk with him?" She nodded her head. "Do you want to touch him?" Another nod, though Lori saw the others nodding as well. "Do you want to kiss him?" Lori watched the blushes on her sisters' cheeks as she nodded again. "Do you want… to go even further?" Lori coyly scrunched her shoulders as she twisted her arms in figure 8, an embarrassed but giddy grin on her blushing face. "I mean… if that's what happens, why not just go with it?"
"No!" Lisa emphatically yelled. Her eyes scowling behind her glasses. "Absolutely not!" Her voice reverberated like the strum of a guitar. "Come on, Lisa!" "No! Do you have any idea what sexual abuse does to boys? The Enhanced risks of substance abuse? Lowered academic performance? Increased propensity for crime!? Seventy-five percent of serial rapists were sexually abused by a female relative in their childhood, Lori! Is that what you want? Or do you want his chances of committing suicide to multiply three times!?" Lori winced at the damning facts, but something made her push through, regardless. "That doesn't happen to all of them though, does it? And almost all of it is against their will, right? It wouldn't be forced with us." The trilling of chords accompanied Lori's counterargument.
"That's pure sophistry! A negation of a negative does not equal a positive! There are no benefits gained from being molested as a child, and yet here you are, saying it should be okay so long as there's a chance he won't suffer any of the detriments!" A power chord explosion of logic from the four-year-old. "The benefit is Lincoln knowing that there are people who love him and are willing to help him whenever he needs it. And anyway, isn't it our duty as the women of the family to teach him how to treat girls?" Another set of strings played for Lori's attack. "Oh, so we're emulating nobles now? Sure, let's drop in on our brother for a quick handy in between our one bath a week and avoiding the bubonic plague. Of course, we all know that generations of inbreeding had no negative effect whatsoever on royalty!" Lisa bellowed with the reverb of a triple strike on a six string.
"He's right on the verge of puberty! What better time than now to advise him on how to be a good lover!?" The plucking of a guitar punctuated Lori's statement. "It's the worst time for that! He's got two years before it really starts, and it's the most confusing point for any youth! Being groomed as a sex toy is just more unnecessary grief!" Lisa and Lori were in each other's faces at this point, and as the guitar solo reached a crescendo, they found something to agree on. "LUNA!" A screech of steel strings broke the atmosphere as the family musician's hands quickly retracted from her instrument. An embarrassed grin offered as an apology for providing the soundtrack to their Mexican standoff.
Despite the annoyance, Luna's impromptu unplugged session did help dispel the antagonistic mood brewing between the eldest and second youngest sisters. "Look, Lisa, I get that you're justifiably worried about Lincoln's safety and growth. But I really think he's ready for this. And this is something we all need too. This is the best way we can repay him for what he does for us." Lori made another appeal. "Did we not just go over how sexually immature he is? What makes you think he's in any way prepared mentally, or emotionally, for one-on-one sex ed?" Lisa snapped back.
"This is what tells me he's ready." Lori held out her bag of valentines. The other girls brought out their own and looked at them, all except Lisa who left hers in her room and stood arms folded, unconvinced. "These are the proof that Lincoln is ready to learn about adult relationships. You've all felt strange when eating them, right? What have you been fantasizing about since you got them? What do you want to do for Lincoln right now?" Lori's plan of action was underway, breaking from a lone argument with Lisa and instead asking what the group was thinking. Who was going to start?
"...I just wanna 'pologize." Looks like the bard had something to get out. "Lincoln's always been supportive of my music, even when I wasn't very good to begin with. But what did I do when he was working hard at his own thing? I laughed at him… I laughed at the idea he could even get any girls! Shows what I know… his stuff is so good it makes me want to give him a whole lotta love." She hugged her guitar to her chest at the end. "I wouldn't worry too much about that, Luna. I cracked a few jokes too, remember?" The rocker's prank-loving roommate tried to comfort her sis.
"Lincoln knows we care about him, even when we make fun of him. He gets it, you know? In fact… he's probably the person who gets all of us the most." Luan's face when somber. "Guys, can I make a quick confession? I know my style humor is not for everyone, and a lot of my jokes may not be the best. But I know you guys wouldn't want me to change it, and that's great, but… well, I think Lincoln might understand me the most out of all of you. And I want to know more about him too." A small instance of empathy among the group as Luan admitted the unspoken truth that some siblings are closer to others than the rest. Everyone understood that.
"That's it? I thought you were going to confess that you also think he has a cute butt." It had to be ruined by her talking log. "That's not what you think!" The flustered girl tried to cover for herself. "I was just stating it from an artistic standpoint, ya' know? Purely for aesthetic reasons!" This was true, and right now the other ladies couldn't really admonish her for thinking something they all agreed with right now. Still didn't stop them from smirking and giving sideways glances, relishing in the schadenfreude of seeing the family trickster put herself in a precarious position for the sake of comedy. "I told you that in confidence!" Luan whisper-yelled to her traitorous literal right-hand man. "What can I say? That's what happens when you tell secrets to a dummy." The shit-eating grin on that piece of firewoods face made Luan consider amputation for a moment.
The short skit did help make the others more comfortable, strangely enough. "You can thank me for that butt, by the way." Lynn proudly proclaimed. "I'm probably the main reason that dork gets any exercise at all. Now all he needs is the confidence that comes with it; he needs some assertiveness trained into him. Who better to teach him about dominance than the Tri-county record holder for most Junior Varsity Wrestling takedowns?" The gladiator boasted while cracking her knuckles.
"I can admit that our brother's optimism and energy are sometimes a welcome breath of fresh air. But if he really wants to win maidens' hearts, he's going to need to learn to be more stoic and morose than he is now." Lucy mused, imagining all the ways to mold her brother into the Byronic Hero of her dreams.
"Ugh. Why do you all want to change him so much?" Lola gave a sneer in their direction. "I know Lincoln isn't perfect. He can be crude, a little selfish, always cooking up a new scheme, takes advantage of a good situation." You'd think Lola was disparaging her brother if it weren't for the hint of pride in her voice, as if she were admiring someone's handiwork. "I swear, he gets that last one from Mom." Lori recalled their Mother's community service stunt, contrasting it with Lincoln's deciding vote for their vacation.
"Let me finish. *Ahem* But, he always tries to correct his mistakes. And he's always willing to forgive us for ours too. He's always there whenever we need help, or need someone to play with, or need a shoulder to cry on, or for whatever else we could need. And I'd like to believe we're there whenever he needs us too." This was one of Lola's uncommon sentimental moments. Her voice a softer, more genuine tone fitting a cute girl her age. "I want him to understand, there was never a time when I truly felt he wasn't good enough to be my brother." The little girl's crossed arms tightened, worried if her nitpicking of Lincoln's habits caused him to think he couldn't meet their standards. "You get what I mean, right Lana?" The princess asked her other half, only to realize she wasn't completely focused. "Lana? Were you listening?" Not really, Lana has her own problems right now.
"Guys… am I gross?" 'Where is this coming from?' Was the simultaneous thought each sibling had. This was strange for Lana because not only was the answer an emphatic 'yes', but Lana herself took the most pride in that fact normally. "Well… you do eat garbage. Which is really bad for you, by the way." Lori felt a twinge in her chest after seeing Lana get more sullen. "But, we all love you just the same and wouldn't ask you to change. Same goes for Lincoln." She quickly followed up.
"I know… And I really appreciate it. It's just… today made me think about how Lincoln always sees me at my worst, and he accepts me, for the most part. I'm thankful that, just like you guys, he cares enough to try to make sure I clean up a bit for my sake." The little girl dug her toe into the carpet. "I want him to see me at my best for once. I need to show him that I can be pretty too when I try." A gentle pink-gloved hand rested on her shoulder. "I know you can. You've got natural good looks, after all." Lola said with a knowing smile, reminding her sister they were identical in more ways than one.
The girls turned to Leni to hear what she planned to do with Lincoln, only for her to blush and titter, "Oh gosh, don't make me say it again." with an embarrassed smile. Lori grinned at Lisa, who scoffed in return.
"What exactly is this supposed to prove?" The stoic four-year-old posed to her elder. "It proves that all we want is to do something nice for our brother." That answer combined with the smirk on Lori's face really set Lisa off. "No, what you want is to satisfy your own urges! Every one of your so-called 'gifts' is completely centered on you! 'I want him to be like this.' 'I want him to validate me.' 'I want to teach him how to make me cum!'" The vitriol in Lisa's voice stung everyone's flesh. Her tone lowered for the next lashing, an even measured growl, like a wolf slowly closing its maw on their throats.
"This is why he made those chocolates… It's not some sign of maturity; not some signal that he's 'down to fornicate'! It's because we keep piling these endless responsibilities for our happiness on him. Of course, he thought anything less than the best wouldn't meet our standards; we continue increasing them every year… And now you want to use him as a surrogate for your unfulfilled fantasies?" Lisa waited to see if any of the girls could stop trembling long enough to counter her. There was no better time than now to end this.
"How badly do you want to see him break?"
If you listened closely, you could hear the sound of glass cracking, as several young girls' hearts were being slowly crushed in a merciless vice. Even though it was painful, they didn't resist or try to stop it. They knew that the one tightening the screws was not torturing them out of malice, nor did they take pleasure in their action. She was doing it for the sake of protecting something precious to her; precious to all of them, and she was willing to be the villain if that was what it took. But, there was one who would not crack, no matter how much pressure was applied, and this one had no qualms about seizing any means of victory.
"You really do love your brother, don't you?" Lori said in the same way Lisa made her last remark, not as a question, but as a statement. Lisa was taken aback by this, a look of confusion replacing her hard scowl. She looked at her older sister as if she had set up a press conference promising a revolutionary discovery, only to take the podium and announce to the entire world 'water is wet'.
"Obviously. What massive powers of insight you must have to deduce that I have feelings of affection for members of my family. Bravo." The kindergartner's natural sarcastic tone lent itself well to her patronizing praise. But the little girl returning to her neutral state gave Lori the chance to go on the offensive. "So why haven't you shown him you do?" Lisa's nose curled as her ire was being stoked once again. "Excuse me?" "What have you done to show Lincoln that you love him?" "What do you think I'm doing right now!?" "I think you're trying to avoid getting close to him because you're scared of bonding with him. Scared of bonding with any of us! Because that'll just make it harder for you!" "Harder for what!?" "Harder to say goodbye when he leaves!"
Hushed gasps brought the atmosphere to a complete halt, only disturbed by a few choked sobs. The ongoing feud had scared the girls, thinking it would damage their relationship forever, and the emotional toll was showing. "Ridiculous. You have no idea what you are talking about." Lisa didn't look Lori in the eye. "I know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm the one who thinks about it the most!" The tightening in Lori's throat couldn't stop what she needed to say.
"I have one year left… One year until I have to be the first to leave… And I can't stop myself from thinking about how much I'm going to miss you all. How I'm not going to see you all grow up in real time anymore. How I'm only going to learn about your first experiences through texts, the occasional phone calls, and Christmas visits." The girls had no idea. Lori always seemed so excited to be going off to College and living with Bobby. They didn't know she had been thinking about the losses in addition to the gains. "And now I realized it's not just me; this is going to affect all of you eventually… especially Lincoln." Everyone was more invested at the mention of his name. "How so?" Lisa quipped, seemingly unaffected.
"Because for the next five years he's going to lose another older sister. He will lose another support, another mentor, another person he can rely on for help whenever he has a problem. When I'm gone, he's not going to have someone with the life experience to give him advice on how to deal with the awkwardness of being a teenager." The many times Lincoln took notes with rapt attention while listening to the sage-like wisdom Lori imparted underneath the bed sheet tent symbolized to everyone that they had a relationship akin to that of master and apprentice. Lincoln was Lori's protégé in many ways and she was the first person he would go to whenever he needed any help with a serious problem.
"And after I'm gone, Leni will follow the next year, and with her will go the sister he can be vulnerable with. The one who can be his emotional support; the one he can let his guard down around and feel safe with, knowing he doesn't have to hide his feelings." Leni blushed at that, thinking her big sister was giving her too much credit. No one, not even Leni, has seen Lincoln cry since he was a toddler. Maybe it comes with being a boy, but Lincoln tends to have a good handle on his emotions, always working through them and coming up with a solution. But if there's ever a time where it becomes too much, everyone knew they had space available in Leni's arms.
"Next it'll be Luna. The one who teaches him how to relax. The laid-back sibling that won't stress him out with lots of demands and shows him how to go with the flow." While Luna was certainly the loudest of the kids, they had to admit she was the least hassle. Well, not to her parents of course with her constant breaking of curfew. But she has always been the most chill of all the girls, and she always tried to make sure everyone was enjoying life as much as she was.
"And then there's Luan. The true source of Lincoln's optimism. She always knows how to cheer him up when he's feeling down. Always showing him the bright side of a situation with humor." Even if the siblings found her constant puns and pranks to be annoying at times, everyone could appreciate a good joke, especially when Luan made just the right zinger at the best time. They knew that if they didn't have to spend their day being on guard for a stray pie in the face, their lives would be just a little less colorful as well.
"And finally, there's Lynn. Not only does she keep him fit and active, but she's also the one who makes sure he's tough enough to handle any challenge that life throws at him." Lynn's competitive nature and aggressiveness may get on everyone's nerves every so often. But, they had to admit, she was the best role model when it came to being a winner. Life is a competition after all, and there wasn't a better coach to have your back than 'Lunatic' Lynn Loud Jr.
"While it's true that your consecutive departures will probably leave an emotional impact on Lincoln, maybe more so than the rest of us to varying degrees. But is your best solution to mitigate the ordeal really to give him an even bigger trauma? If you want to bond more, try spending more time with him instead." Lisa, ever the pragmatist, dismissed Lori's sentimental appeal. "Don't think this only applies to us, Lisa. Think about it. After we're gone, Lincoln's going to be the next one in charge." The youngest girls' eyes widened at that realization. "For two years he will be the one taking care of you. Two years of him driving you wherever you want. Two years of him making sure you don't destroy the house while Mom and Dad aren't around. Two years of him helping you with your homework, giving you advice, covering for your mistakes." A pause as Lori collected herself.
"I can see it already… He'll be the second man of the house. He'll be your rock; your constant source of stability. He'll be there for you whenever and wherever you need him. If you're ever in danger, he'll come to save you like one of his comic book heroes. If you're sad, he'll be there to dry your tears and lend you his shoulder. If you feel lost in life and need direction, he'll be there to guide you. And when you're happy, he'll be there to smile with you." The littlest Louds' heartstrings were being pulled taught by the imagery of their big brother caring for them. "I know it'll be the best two years you'll spend with him… And it'll be over before you know it."
*Snap* "He'll be gone and out of our lives for who knows how long. And you'll be left wondering if we ever did enough; if we ever spent enough time with him. Worrying if we prepared him enough to face the outside world, while at the same time feeling scared of going out there without him to soothe us…" All the other girls couldn't look in Lori's direction. Each one was physically trying to hold themselves together, feeling anxious about the unknown future and wishing the present could last forever. Lisa was still unreadable, though she had turned her back to the group, leaning her shoulder on Leni's bed. She could either be just as compromised as her siblings or simply frustrated with the whole ordeal. For Lori, this was the gamble of a lifetime.
"I know there's no perfect solution, and that no matter how much time we spend with each other these fears will probably still be there. But I don't want to waste a single moment. I don't want to look back and regret any missed opportunity to be closer with you guys… And everything today is just too perfect not to take advantage of. Almost like a miracle." A scoff came from the other end of the room.
"Coincidence is not a justification for a complete disregard of common sense." Lisa remarked, still facing the door. "It makes perfect sense. When do you think another day like this will come around? Mom and Dad are gone for the entire evening. None of us have any plans. Wanna bet how much more perfect this opportunity can get? What days are we on Lisa?" The four-year-old glanced over her shoulder, reluctance to answer the question teeming from her narrowed eyes. "I know you keep track, Lisa. What days are we on?" Self-disgust welled up inside Lisa, unable to keep herself from wanting to divulge her knowledge of their health and well being. "You do know Menstrual Synchrony is largely a myth, right?"
"Answer the question, Lisa." The little girl cursed under her breath. She turned around and pointed at the oldest first. "Lori, you've been on birth control since a month after officially dating Bobby." A satisfied smile crossed Lori's face, while a devious one spread across Lisa's. "Synthetic hormones are known to affect mate preference in women, FYI. Hope you still find Bobby as attractive off the pill as you do on." Lori crossed her arms in a huff, offended by the very notion that their love was merely chemicals in the brain. Lisa turned to the next in birth succession.
"Leni is on the third day of her follicular phase. Since her cycle is thirty-two days, she has approximately eleven days before she begins ovulation." "Follicu-what? Is something wrong with my hair?" The embodiment of the dumb blonde joke checked her flawless hairdo. "Just so you know, I don't carry any Levonorgestrel or Mifepristone in my lab. So, any accidents are on you." Lisa deadpanned directly at Lori before pointing at two more sisters.
"Luna and Luan are both coincidentally on their luteal phase. I'd give about a week until Aunt Flo pays them a visit." The pair gulped, not looking forward to that event. "And as for Lynn… She hasn't had a period in about three months." The other girls' eyes bulged as they turned towards their sister. "Calm down. She has no experience like she said. This is a common occurrence amongst female athletes." Lisa assuaged their fears, which seemed ridiculous in hindsight as there was no way Lynn could hide a baby bump for that long now that they thought about it.
"Hey, I haven't missed 'em." The hyperactive brunette bragged. "I should remind you that athletic amenorrhea can cause infertility and osteoporosis if left untreated for too long. Which, come to think of it, may explain your short stature." Lynn's face went pale. "Maybe we should get that looked at later, Okay?" She said with a slight tremor in her voice. "Good idea." Lisa stated plainly. She redirected her gaze at Lori. "Wipe that look off your face. What does technically being on your 'Safe Days' supposedly prove?"
"Lisa, I can't help it if you can't see the obvious golden opportunity staring you in the face. But it doesn't matter because it's not up to you." Lisa wasn't going to take that. "Don't test me, woman. I can easily call our parental units back here in a heartbeat. And I have an impenetrable bunker to hide Lincoln in if it means keeping you away from him." Lori wasn't shaken. "You would have done it already if you really thought this was as harmful as you think." Lisa's eyes shifted to the floor. Lori sighed, she didn't like what she had done so far, but her conviction was unwavering.
"Lisa, you're not wrong for being scared about this. In any other family, this would be a terrible thing to consider. But we're not like other families; I don't know any group of siblings closer than us. What other groups of kids hang out together as much as we do? Covers for each other? Hatches plans together? Shares our dreams and secrets together? Overcomes our weaknesses and flaws together?" The sisters traded soft, weepy smiles. Wordlessly remembering all the times they helped one another with a problem, worked together to break some rule, confided their innermost fears. There wasn't any family as close-knit as they were, no question about it.
"There's nothing we could do that would really hurt us. No matter what arguments, feuds, or conflicts come our way, we always find a way to be a family again afterward, flaws and all." Lori could see the turmoil in Lisa's face. Remaining true to her words, she extended a familial gesture. "I won't force you, Lisa, I just want you to understand how important this is. This is literally our only chance to show Lincoln how much he means to us. And if we let it slip by, we may regret it for the rest of our lives. There's a little boy in a linen closet right now who needs us more than ever, and I know you would do anything for him just like us." Lori could see Lisa was wavering, she just needed one more push.
"We'll take a vote. If we can't get most of us to agree with this, then we'll walk away and never speak of this again. Deal?" Lisa shook her head. "I won't allow a decision like this to be made by mob rule…" Lori's heart sank. Lisa would be stubborn till the bitter end, wouldn't she? "Only if it's unanimous." An audible 'What?' escaped Lori's lips. "If even one of you has enough rational sense left to see it my way, you will not go through with this. All or nothing, that's the deal." Lori scanned the room. She smiled, walked to the center, and thrust her hand out. "Deal."
Everyone was still. For a good half minute, it seemed like Lisa would be the victor. That was until Luna quietly got up and walked solemnly to Lori's side. She placed her trembling hand on Lori's, grabbing on to her big sister's for strength. "I'm in." She managed to say. "I don't know much, but I know I love Lincoln… And it's 'bout time I show the little bugger that for once, roight?" Luna's cockney growing with her confidence, as she set the stage for her sisters. They started moving, one by one another girl cast their vote.
"It would be a waste not awaken Lincoln's true potential. He's the one burdened with carrying on our family name, after all." Lucy droned as she placed her cold hand in the circle. "Why not? It's not like we would be the only ones with some mangled roots in their family tree after this. Right, Mr. Coconuts?" A loud gasp of betrayal emanated from the puppet. "I told you that in confidence!" "Payback's a birch, ain't it?" Luan replied with a giggle as she thrust her hand into the pile. *BZZT!* And quickly took it out, apologizing for the joy buzzer.
"We're in!" The twins said in sync. "Lincoln needs to know there's no way anyone related to me is anything less than perfect. Same goes for you too, Lana." The blonde duo shared tender smiles with each other while they added their tiny hands to the ballot. "Count me in! There's no way I'm sitting out on this match." Lynn proclaimed as she spits into her palm and slapped it in the ring, much to the displeasure of everyone else. "This is totes going to be the best Valentine we've ever given Linky, you guys!" Leni gleefully squealed as she placed her manicured hand on top.
Lori looked at each of her sisters in gratitude, true appreciation for their support radiated from her face. She gave the same kind expression to Lisa, who was still keeping her distance near the exit. Lisa was dumbstruck, but not surprised. She tried to fight emotions using logic, reason, and evidence. It was a fool's errand from the start. "This is why universal suffrage was a mistake." She muttered under her breath as she plodded towards the huddle, placing her own hand in defeat.
"If you're going to do this anyway, I might as well try to minimize the damage as much as possible… And if this does somehow work, like heck I'm going to miss out on getting brownie points with Lincoln." The girls let out a chuckle which Lisa couldn't help smile at. That was when she noticed the hand she was touching was very small, and a little chubby. When she looked to her right, her eyes popped, then a devious smile spread across her face. She wasn't out yet.
"Oh Lori, I believe there's a little flaw to your idea." Lisa playfully remarked, grinning ear to ear at the prospect of assured victory. The others didn't know what she was referring to until their eyes widened at the sudden realization. Their gobsmacked vision directed at the ultimate weakness of this entire operation. The smiling infant cradled in Leni's arm, with her hand counted in solidarity with the rest. Lily felt the stares on her person, cocking her eyebrow as her big eyes flicked left and right before letting out a confused, "Wat?"
The girls all looked to Lori for guidance, Lori herself was completely unsure what to do. She wasn't willing to call the whole thing off, but even she wasn't so far gone in desire to involve a baby in their tryst. "We'll just have to keep Lily out of this. She's just playing along with her vote, anyway." She blurted, trying to resolve the issue as cleanly as possible.
"Oh-ho-no. I said it had to be unanimous. All or nothing, that was the deal. No degrees of evil here; if it's wrong for Lily to be involved, then it's wrong for all of us. Case closed." Lisa delivered her ultimatum, self-assured that there was no way Lori would try to justify this. Not that she wasn't trying. The rationalization hamster spun it's wheel into overdrive trying to find any excuse to keep going, and just when smoke was about to pour out of her ears, an angel spoke. "Wait, what's wrong with Lily joining us?" The fluttery voice of the second born daughter shocked all in attendance.
"...Leni, she's a baby." Lisa said as patronizingly as possible. "But, like, so are you, right?" The platinum blonde responded back, in a much friendlier and more inquisitive tone. "I'm clearly much more emotionally and mentally mature than others in my age group. That's why I am fully equipped to comprehend the significance of this situation." Leni's only signal that she heard her little sister was a short 'uh…?' "It means I'm smart enough to know what I'm doing and Lily isn't." "Yes, she is." Lisa just deadpanned at her sister, realizing she was arguing with another child.
"No, she isn't." "Yah-huh! I can prove it! Watch." Leni held the baby underneath her widdle arms and in the sweetest voice asked, "Lily, who's your favoritest, bestest, most wonderful big brother in the world?" Without missing a beat the one-year-old gleefully shouted, "Inkin!" "That's right! And how much do you love Lincoln?" The cute little bundle of joy strained her face adorably as she exerted everything she had to stretch her hands out as far and wide as possible. "See!? She loves him soOo much! How can you tell her no?" The immature teen gushed as she held her charge out in front of everyone's faces, driving the infant's conviction home. The look of determination in Lily's eyes strangely set the others at ease, realizing that Lily wasn't an ordinary baby. She was a Loud, and the Loud's were anything but ordinary.
"You're right Leni. Lily is Lincoln's sister too, and she clearly wants to show him how much she appreciates his gift this year. She can stay." Leni and Lily let out a joyful 'Yes!', bringing a smile to everyone's faces. Well, everyone except Lisa, who sported a disgusted look combined with a twitching eye. "Are you all insane!? She's one! She doesn't know what she's doing!" Lori was tired of the back and forth at this point. "You don't know what she's doing either! She probably just wants to give him a hug or something, you don't know." "Why take the risk!" "What, do you not trust Lincoln? Is that it? You think he's some perverted little monster who would hurt his baby sister?"
Now Lisa was pissed. "You and I both know he would never-" But Lori was angrier. "That's right! He would never do anything to harm her! Or any of us for that matter! So what are you so scared of Lisa!?" Lisa was at a complete loss for words. Her massive intellect was brought to nothing by the absoluteness of Lori's voice. Try as she might, the coherence in her arguments never came back, all she could do was stammer the same points over and over. "B-but, but this is crazy! We can't do this! He's not ready! And she's a baby!" An indignant 'Bah!' came from her right. Lisa turned to see Lily scowling at her, genuinely unnerving the toddler.
What followed was a lengthy rant spoken in pure gibbering baby-talk, delivered by the most well-spoken baby of the bunch to her shocked roommate. Lily babbled at length about what she knew. She knew today was Valentine's day. She knew that people gave chocolates to the ones they love on that day. She knew her only brother just gave her something irreplaceable that showed just how much she meant to him. She knew that she was special to him because she knew whom it was that made sure she was always out of danger. She knew whose button nose gave her Eskimo kisses after changing her diaper. She knew whose orange polo it was that she snuggled up to every night since he gave it to her. She knew whose heartbeat lulled her to sleep on lazy Sunday afternoons, despite him probably being bothered by her weight on his chest and wanting to read comics. She knew he fell asleep soon afterward, keeping a hand on her for warmth and support. And she knew, above all else, that nothing and nobody was going to stop her from showing him just how important he was to her, "Dangit!" She concluded with a hearty curse, flooring everyone present. With a defiant huff, Lily thrust her hand in with the others, committed to giving back as much love, or more than, she had taken from him over her short life.
The room was astonished. No one could even think of anything to say at this point. They could only watch the mop-headed little girl tremble in place. Sympathy and guilt filling their hearts as they watched their most collected and ambitious sister wither and crumble under their unrelenting barrage. Lori especially recognized what she had done. She hadn't intended to do it, but she just broke her sister down, completely reducing her to putty in their hands. It was her duty to build her back up again.
"Lisa? Come here…" The Loud daughters made an opening in their midst, inviting Lisa into their center, guiding her gently into the warmth of their collective embrace. Kneeling around her and making sure she felt safe in all directions. "You're not a bad person, Lisa. Far from it, in fact. We all know that everything you said came from a place of love and protection." They could hear a sniffle at the core of their hug. "And we also know that you're just as confused, excited, and a little scared about these feelings we have for Lincoln right now. But you did what we couldn't; you powered through them and stuck to your principles. We'll always love you for that." The group adjusted their arms in order to tighten their embrace. "Maybe the right decision is to ignore this and just act like normal, but I can't do it… If I reject these feelings, it'll be like I'm rejecting Lincoln." A shiver ran through Lisa's body as she let a hiccup escape her chest.
"But you're right, either we do this together or not at all. If you want to stop, we'll all stop for you. No arguments, no tricks, no deals. We can't do this without you. And if we can't do this together, it's better if we don't do it at all." Lisa had finally regained enough composure to speak. "I don't know what to d-do…" Lori threads her hand through Lisa's hair. "Whatever you do, we'll support it, just like always. We're a family that sticks together, no matter what." Lori and the rest gave one last squeeze before giving their sibling room to breathe. Lori once again reached her hand out to the middle of the room, a loving look asking the question for her.
The little scientist balled her tiny fist near her chest, feeling the rhythm of the organ residing there, listening to it for the first time instead of her most treasured one. "I just don't want to lose him…" She lamented, her voice slightly hoarse. "None of us do." Lori reassured, all the implications delivered by the sincerity in her voice. Lisa looked at each of her sisters. She saw the love and acceptance in their eyes, accentuated by their growing mistiness. They told her any decision she made would be met with understanding and kindness. There was no need to fear, she could stop them and they would still love her afterward. Nothing would be lost and everything in their lives would go back to normal. Her hand tightened, and with great precision, she placed it on top of the eldest daughter's. They were engulfed soon after by the hands of the other children. A pact was made, signed by smiles and tears. This was the unbreakable bond between sisters.
Lori mouthed a silent 'thank you' as she wiped the water from her face, preventing her mascara from running any further. The time for emotions had gone, now it was time for business. It was up to her as the oldest to set the course of the actions they were about to take. "Okay, whew… Alright, first let's remember why we're doing this. Today, Lincoln reminded us that even if we're separated from our special someone, or if we haven't found them yet, no matter how alone or unwanted we may feel, we always know there's one boy who will always love us all, no matter what." The girls nodded in agreement. "Now it's our turn to show him that no matter how awkward he is, no matter how lonely he may feel, no matter what troubles come his way, there will always be ten girls who love and support him, no matter what." The whole group unanimously agreed.
"Good. Here's how it's going to go. First rule: Oldest to youngest." There were some groans of disapproval from the late-born children. "Hey hey, none of that. Lincoln needs to be eased into this. We need to make sure he's comfortable with it first, and he definitely wouldn't be okay with thinking he's taking advantage of the younger kids. He needs the ones with more authority to show him it's fine." "Wow. You're really a natural at being a child predator." Lisa couldn't help getting one more dry jab in before Lori motioned her to zip it.
"Second: Everyone gets one hour." The twins beamed at each other. "Hang on, I mean one hour total. That means if you double up, you're not extending your time. Each girl can only spend one hour with him, period, no piggybacking. This has to be shared equally." The twins plan of getting their brother for two hours fell through, but they were still committed to working as a team. "Third, and this is the most important rule: This is just for today." The leader said in the most definitive tone possible.
"What that means is this is a one-time thing. This isn't going to be the new normal. Not only are we never doing this again, but we're also never going to speak of this for the rest of our lives. Once the clock hits midnight, this fairytale is over and we treat it like a dream. We can still take the lessons and bonds we make with us, they can't ever be erased. But, we will never mention anything we did today and pretend it never happened until the day we die." The girls gulped at the dire implications, realizing how dead set Lori was on making this a singular event.
"I hope Lisa's right that what we're feeling is only temporary, because once tomorrow comes, I don't want to see any of you clinging on to him, kissing him, treating him like your boyfriend, none of that! He's our brother and we love him, and we're doing this to help him feel better about himself. We want him to gain confidence, make more friends, get a girlfriend, have a relationship, succeed at what he wants to do, get married, have kids of his own. No jealousy, no unrequited feelings; we're not trying to become his sister wives! I know it seems like a tall order, but I want to try as much as possible to make sure we all go back to being a loving, chaotic, but still normal family after this. Lincoln needs to learn this too. So, repeat after me, drill it into you, this is literally just for today. Got that?" The girls gave spattering responses, repeating the motto Lori gave them. "Again. Just for today!" They chanted more in sync with each other. "One more time!" Lori commanded with the authority of a colonel. "Just for today!" The sisters harmonized in unison. "Right! Let's do this! Break!" "Break!" With a final hurrah, the team broke their huddle and scattered off to prepare for the day ahead.
"Lynn! Send Lincoln to my room in five minutes. Make sure he's wearing this." Lori commanded as she tossed an item in Lynn's direction. "Got it, coach!" Lynn replied as she caught the toss-up like a linebacker, running backward into the hallway. "Leni, I need your help with my hair and makeup while I get ready. Everyone else, use this time to prepare, help out your sisters whenever you can! We've got twelve hours before bedtime, let's make 'em count people!" "Roger!" the troops saluted as they went to execute their orders, leaving their first and second in command alone together.
Once the door was closed, Lori was able to relax her shoulders and let out her breath. She had really done it. She didn't truly comprehend what she had done, but she understood it was tremendous. "...Leni?" "Yes, Lori?" Leni responded from inside the closet, grabbing their super secret special box of clothes. "Are we doing the right thing?" Despite the emotional high she rode to charge through all the logical opposition, now that she had calmed down, the gravity of what they were planning was weighing on her. She could tell something was genuinely wrong with the situation. The whole family may have been closer because of their abnormal size, but there was never a possibility of the siblings crossing a forbidden line. The ones that even knew of the line's existence always thought it was something done by other deranged people, and that they would never do it themselves. How could one little chocolate so easily flip their moral compasses?
"We're helping Linky. How can that be the wrong thing?" Leni asked while dropping their new uniforms on the bed. "Well… You heard what Lisa said; this could really hurt him… And besides, he does hate it when we meddle. And this is going a lot further than just fixing a paper cut." Lori winced, remembering how over the top they can get when it comes to caring for their only brother. 'Good thing I set some rules.' She thought. "Yeah, but like, we all meddle a little bit. And If Lincoln didn't meddle with my problems, I wouldn't have gotten my job back. Which if you think about it, I only got it in the first place because all of you meddled with me, trying to make me more subversive." "Assertive, Leni." "Oh, right. But still, whenever we help each other, things always work out for the best. And even when we make mistakes, we always work together to right any wrongs."
"That's the problem, Leni. We've made a lot of wrongs before. I mean we've fought, pranked, tricked, swindled, and lied to each other hundreds of times before, and it's always ended badly. Why would this time be any different?" Lori was genuinely thinking of calling the whole thing off and scheduling group therapy; the dysfunctionality of their family staring her in the face for the first time. "Like, I can think of just as many times where we hugged, laughed, helped, cherished, and comforted each other too, though. And, you know, I think this time it's going to work out okay. Because think about it, what are you feeling whenever we get in a fight?" Lori huffed, trying to recall the motivations for every incident she's ever been part of.
"...Mostly jealousy, I guess. Then anger… And also because I was scared of not being needed." Leni nodded her head. "Mm-hm. And what are you feeling now?" Lori sighed, relaxing as she let her sister brush her hair. "...I feel a little excited. A little anxious. And… I feel like I really want to make Lincoln happy." Leni turned her sister around. "That's why I think this is the right thing. It's, like, the thought that counts. When we have bad thoughts for doing something, it's a total disaster; When we have good thoughts for doing things, it turns out fine! We're not having any bad thoughts, so this is going to work out!" Leni said as if she had solved a secret of the universe.
Lori chuckled. "I don't know, Leni. I have a few bad thoughts in my head right now." Leni pensively tapped her chin before forming a coquettish smile of her own. "Well… We wouldn't have any fun if we weren't a little bad once in a while." The sisters broke out into giggles as they wrapped their arm on the other's shoulder, bringing their heads together as they continued laughing about their constant troublemaking. It ended as quickly as it began when Lori brought Leni in for a little sister hug. "Thanks for always having my back, Leni." A moment of peace before the gauntlet. "Mm… Wait? I have your back? Omigosh, does that mean I have bacne too!?"
"Oo-kay, moment's over. Come on, help me get this top on." The pair resumed getting equipped for the day ahead. Not letting a good streak of ideas go to waste, Leni took the opportunity to bring up one more thing. "Lori? Can I ask for a favor?" "I do owe you one, don't I? What do you need?" "Well…"
Sunday, February 14th, 1216 Franklin Ave, Lincoln's Room, 10:20 AM
The squeaking of felt on a smooth surface echoed inside the cramped room. Though small, the room exhibited creativity with its collection of geeky knickknacks strategically placed along the walls, dresser, and even the ceiling. In lieu of adopting minimalism, Lincoln had instead maximized every corner of his converted linen closet into the perfect fortress of solitude. Whether it was hanging his shirts above his drawers, installing extra shelf space above his bed, or taping a whiteboard to the underside of his mattress, the boy managed to do more with less square feet than convicts had.
He didn't complain, the trade-off of having his compact living quarters all to himself was more than worthwhile in a house where every other family member had a roommate. Parents included. The click of a cap brought silence back to the abode, as Lincoln finished plotting his ideas.
One of the good qualities about Lincoln is he's not one to sit on his hands when he has a problem to solve. After getting to his room and taking a minute to process his thoughts, he was up jotting down ideas. For twenty minutes, he filled his board completely with plans, strategies, and operations designed to fix the awkward atmosphere he felt was inadvertently created by him. An important lesson he learned very early due to being apart of a large family, and as the only boy amongst girls, you don't get what you want by sitting around moping. You have to go out there and earn it, 'cause no one will give it to you. That's why he's known as 'The Man with the Plan'.
Tapping the marker against his chin, he took stock of his options. "Okay, so we have the basics. Apologizing, pretending nothing happened, or there's always ducking out of the house and avoiding them for the rest of the day; that could work…" Notice the nickname didn't imply they were good plans, but he was willing to try, which was more than most people would do. "Maybe I can convince them it was all a dream and they're still asleep?" He glanced at his wall, once again interacting with an audience that wasn't there, hoping for third-party input. "Nah, that wouldn't work." Another sigh escaping him as he trashed another plot. "I'm overthinking this." He said while rubbing his temples. "I need to reduce the issue down to the core problem…" Before he could begin that thought process, a familiar crackling emanated from his nightstand.
*Kch!* "Come in, Candyman. This is Loverboy. Over." The voice of Lincoln's best pal rang through the tinny speaker of his walkie-talkie. 'Perfect timing.' The boy thought, wanting another person to share his troubles with. *Kch!* "Roger, Loverboy, This is Candyman, reading you loud and clear. Over." Goodness knows why these two continue to use such archaic technology to have long distance conversations with each other. They both have cell phones, for Pete's sake! It must be the sense of adventure and fun that comes with being eleven-year-old boys.
"Hey, Lincoln! Did Lori like my Valentine this year? I spent a week making the mold for that." While Lincoln doesn't mind the crush his best friend has on his older sister, it's not one of his favorite topics. It's not like it bothers him; whomever his sisters date is none of his business, and honestly, he wishes they would show the same courtesy to him. No, the reason he doesn't like discussing it is that, quite simply, it's never going to happen. Lori is totally committed to Bobby Santiago, and there's no seventeen-year-old anywhere that would be interested in anyone younger than a Junior. Can't go on dates with a guy without so much as a learner's permit, after all. Also, Clyde's infatuation tends to throw a wrench into their operations more often than not.
"Yes, Clyde. She liked the statue fine. She took a big bite out of it when she got it." Lincoln omitted how she shrugged and put it back in the box, presumably to save for later, not wanting to spoil her appetite for her boyfriend's gift. "How about you? What did Lori give you?" "Candy hearts! Each red stamped message of 'Be Mine' and 'Luv You' is confirmation we were meant to be together. At least it will be if I ever open it; it's too valuable right now." Clyde had enshrined his gift on a pedestal beneath a portrait of Lori as a precious treasure. If he looked closely, he would realize the hearts say 'Like U as a Friend' and 'Platonic 4-Ever'. Didn't know they made hearts like that.
"How did things go on your end? Did your sisters like the chocolates?" Lincoln and Clyde share everything with each other, so of course, he would know what Lincoln planned today. "Yeah, they did… but there's a new problem. I accidentally made them feel guilty about getting me the same stuff every year, and now they're scrambling to come up with some outlandish last minute gift. It's ridiculous! I didn't want my present to make them feel bad; I just wanted to do something nice this time around. And knowing them, it'll be a huge commotion that'll end in disaster anyway." Clyde listened patiently as his friend vented his frustrations. Something he picked up from his many therapy sessions with Dr. Lopez. Lincoln kicked out the supports for his mattress and flopped down on his bed with a sigh. "I don't want them to fuss over me, Clyde." Lincoln closed his eyes, feeling somewhat relaxed after getting his thoughts off his chest.
"... Are you sure you don't want them to?"
"Huh?" "I mean, this is just a theory but, are you sure you don't want them to pay more attention to you?" Lincoln didn't know what to say to that. Clyde knows what his home life is like, right? "Clyde, I can't get a moment's peace as it is. Why would I want to spend more time with my sisters?" "I don't know, but I don't think you hate it." "I never said I hated it." Lincoln responded defensively. "Let me explain. A lot of the stuff you do is motivated by wanting some 'me time', right?" That's an understatement.
"Clyde, I've fantasized about being an only child. Yes, I like to take a little personal time for myself once in a while. It's kinda difficult when you have ten girls constantly needing you for something." They did seek his opinion on things a lot. Must have to do with wanting a guy's perspective. Often, it seemed as if Lincoln was the first or second person they went to when they had something on their mind. "Okay, but what happened whenever you got your alone time?"
"My sisters would teach me a lesson about not shutting them out and we learned not to take our bonds for granted. Lather, rinse, repeat." Lincoln wondered if he should be a bit more irked at his sisters need to sabotage his attempts at isolation. "Yes, but before that, what else would happen?" "I'm not following, Clyde. What else is there?" "Think about it. What happens when you finally get the peace and quiet you wanted?"
Lincoln pondered, he had no clue what Clyde was getting at. Or maybe he didn't want to acknowledge it. Regardless, he couldn't avoid remembering the time he got a pool for himself. How he spent all day setting it up, only to have it taken over by his sisters. How he laid down the law and kicked them out so he could enjoy it. And how he sat there by himself, not having any fun at all, eventually joining the chaos again with his family in the end. He thought about how he lied about being bad luck in order to spend time alone at home. He went as far as to break Lori's golf clubs to pull that off! And for what? He got bored with being alone after less than a week. Twirling his finger in a circle on his sheets, Lincoln sheepishly admitted. "... I mean, maybe I get a little lonely. But only sometimes!" Clyde, in his role of armchair Psychologist, wasn't convinced. "I'm pretty sure it's most of the time."
Lincoln didn't want to give up that easily. "Oh, come on! Remember when I told you about that time we thought our parents were getting rid of us? I instantly pulled out a tape measure for renovation plans after we were sure I was going to stay. There was going to be a go-kart track, Clyde! Go-karts! But what did my sisters do when I told them they were only getting rid of me? They fought for me; they confronted our parents and cleared up the misunderstanding without a second thought…. That's why they deserve a good gift and I don't." Lincoln realized something about himself that brought down his mood.
'Wow, I'm kind of a jerk… Why am I the only one who thinks about being an only child?' As if sensing his thoughts, Clyde interjected. "Lincoln, before you get too hard on yourself, ask this: Did you really think your own parents would get rid of you guys? Do you know any parents like that anywhere?" Lincoln couldn't recall any examples. "Well no, but we are a handful." Want to guess how much property damage this family causes in a single weekend? "Call me crazy, but I think all of you knew deep down that they weren't going to abandon you. You guys were just playing along with your overactive imaginations and trying to create drama on a slow Saturday." Lincoln scoffed. "That is crazy. There was nothing fun about thinking Mom's criticism of Dad's ties was about us. That stuff hurt!" He remembered the dejected face he made at his Father's comment about the 'White Hare'.
"Look, what I'm getting at is, you don't actually want to be an only child. You indulge in fantasy with full knowledge that it'll never happen. Lots of people do that. That doesn't make it your true feeling on the matter." While Lincoln appreciated his friend's attempt to console him, he was having trouble believing it. "Let's face it, Clyde. I'm not the best brother in the world." "No, you're the best brother you can be. That's all your family asks of you." Lincoln gave a dark chuckle. "Fine. But that still doesn't excuse how I treat them in my head."
Clyde had an idea. "Okay, how about this? Try to imagine life without your sisters." Lincoln rolled his eyes. "Clyde-" "Bare with me a minute. Try actually imagining them being gone, or never existing in the first place. Whatever you can realistically think of that implies never seeing them again. Really meditate on it; don't focus on the superficial. Just let your true feelings flow." Lincoln sighed, thinking this was a wasted effort. But this is his best friend, and he wanted advice. "Might as well give it a shot."
Taking a deep breath and clearing his mind, Lincoln closed his eyes and delved into his imagination. He was ambivalent about this whole exercise; Lincoln already concluded he was the most selfish member of the family, what was creating more childish delusions of his desires supposed to help prove. He sat there, waiting to conjure visions of his idyllic single life. What was it going to be? Him lounging in a beach chair by their new backyard in-ground pool, sipping a tropical fruit drink while reading a stack of comics? Playing video games for hours on end with no interruption on the latest 4K home entertainment setup? How about a bubble bath Jacuzzi in the recently remodeled bathroom/sauna with no lines and infinite hot water?
'Come on, just get on with it already! Show me just how little I care for everyone else…' But, nothing. Lincoln couldn't see anything other than the back of his eyelids. After a few more seconds of no progress, Lincoln opened his eyes with a grunt. "Clyde, this is pointless-" Lincoln blinked. He blinked again. He rubbed his eyes and tried to squint. Lincoln couldn't tell if he opened his eyes or not, as the view was the same either way. Darkness. Lincoln's entire room had disappeared and all he could see was a black void all around him. He thought he had gone blind until he looked down. There were his legs, completely visible, as if he was the only object capable of emitting light in this desolate space. He was sitting in complete nothingness. He didn't attempt to call out for help, for he knew no one would hear him. Instinctively, he was aware everyone he knew and loved no longer existed. He just sat there, letting the emptiness slowly crush him, knowing for the first time what despair truly felt like.
*Krzt* "...incoln? Hello? Lincoln, come on buddy, say something!" In the instant that it takes to flip a light switch, Lincoln's room came back into view. He looked around, confused, as though he couldn't recognize the place. It all came back to him when he realized it was Clyde's voice he was hearing. He pressed his fingers to his eyes and cleared his throat. "Yeah, Clyde, I'm here." He noticed his fingers were wet, then he found more fluid on his cheeks and wiped it all away with a sniff. "You okay, Lincoln? You sound hoarse."
"I'm fine, Clyde. Just… I think you have a point, is all." Lincoln had come to terms with his emotions. "I did want to do something special for my sisters, that part is true… But, now I know another part of me wanted to feel appreciated back." "There's nothing wrong with that, Lincoln. Everyone wants to feel loved in some way or another." Lincoln chuckled at that. "Yeah, I guess they do… Hey, Clyde?" "Yeah, Lincoln?" "Thanks. I really needed this. I know what I need to do now." Lincoln got up and stretched, getting back into his usual upbeat mood. "Yep! Time to start operation: Spend the entire day getting spoiled by my sisters so they don't feel bad and also think of a shorter name for this operation." Clyde laughed from the other side of the line. "Roger that, Candyman. This is Loverboy, over and out."
Lincoln put the receiver on his desk. He lifted his mattress back up, and with the pop of a marker cap, began writing on his board. A single phrase in big bold letters, circled in triplicate. 'Just go with it!'. Lincoln smiled contentedly at the plan. He felt better, lighter, and more at ease. "I shouldn't be fighting this. My sisters are doing this out of goodwill, after all. What kind of brother would I be if I refused?" As if on cue, Lincoln got a knock on his door. "Time to get started."
Where to begin. My power went out while typing the first draft of these notes, so I'll keep it brief as everything seems to want to prevent me from publishing this chapter. First of all, I'm so sorry that it took so long to get this chapter done. I have been constantly working on it ever since March and wanted to publish it earlier so many time, only for me to underestimate the amount of work I had left to get it right. I'm not by any means a professional writer, so it takes me longer to finish a story than many of the other, more talented authors on this site. Between working overtime and my computer hard drive breaking, there were a lot of interruptions. But, I pulled through and finally managed to get possibly the longest chapter of the story done. There's a lot of character motivation and world building in this chapter, and it was hard to cut out anything I thought would add more to the story. Speaking of which, how about I tell the aspiring authors a writing technique that may help. When I work on a story, I keep a separate document open called (story name) Scratchpad. I jot down the basic outline of the story plus any ideas I come up with while writing or at work, or wherever. The best function I've found for it is using it for 'non-destructive editing'. Instead of deleting a sentence or a paragraph you don't like from your work, copy or cut and paste it into the scratchpad instead and rewrite the paragraph afterward. This keeps your original preserved and lets you rework something without worry.
Next topic, new attempts at challenging myself. After I wrote the excuse to get the parents out of the house, I started thinking about what their day would look like. This led me to create this little companion story to the main plot about a couples event. The characters are meant to represent the different stages in a couple's relationship and I thought it would be fun to see how the Loud parents interact with other people. This is my attempt at having an 'A' story and a 'B' story run side by side as you see in other cartoons. These parts will be short and shouldn't distract from the main focus of the Loud siblings, and I hope it adds some humor to the overall experience. Other things I tried doing in this chapter: Setting up running jokes. The show often has running gags or jokes in each episode, so keep an eye out for my own attempts at this with this chapter.
I also attempted something really weird during the argument between Lisa and Lori that I'd like some feedback on. I tried to prime an auditory response in the reader by describing guitar sounds in an attempt to provide a soundtrack to the back and forth. The joke was, in the end, it wasn't a soundtrack only the audience could hear, but Luna was actually playing in line with their dialogue. Think something like dueling banjos or peter and the wolf. What I want to know is, were you, the reader, able to imagine a guitar soundtrack while reading that was somewhat in line with, say, a spaghetti western soundtrack? And did the reveal that Luna was the one doing it actually come as a surprise; was it subtle enough to be considered a metaphor for the tone of their arguments, or did you know it was going to end on someone actually playing in the room? I guess one more thing I'd like input on is if the transition between humor and drama is being done well enough. Sometimes I think the transition could come across as too jarring, or maybe I'm too melodramatic at some parts. Let me know if any sections seem tone deaf. Maybe some people have already guessed, my focus tends to be on comedy more than anything else. You can kinda see my biggest influence based on the titles of these chapters. That series was able to weave action, comedy, and drama in perfect harmony and I'll miss it dearly when it's finally over. My jokes don't come even close to the level of that series, and that may be due to it being a visual medium, which I'm more accustomed to thinking in than straight literature. I want to take the skills I learn from this and use it in writing comics and games in the future. Extra points to whoever can guess what series I'm referring to.
Finally, the elephant in the room. Why am I including Lily? Because she's an important character just like everyone else and should be included in their shenanigans. So before you hit that report button, I suggest you wait until chapter 11 before you judge this as being too far. To be honest, how can this be too far when there are fanfics with rape, torture, murder, wasn't there one with cannibalism? The point is, this is all fiction. We're all mature enough to know we don't support anything that goes on here in real life, and what a person writes is not always a reflection of their values. Lily is a fake baby who is cartoonishly smarter than a real one, and the other characters are smart enough to know what not to do with an infant. This isn't going to turn into "Lily is a Baby Slut" so calm down and read wait to see what happens before you decide to get offended. Side note, this is all backed up on Adult-Fanfiction .org, pastebin, and Archive of Our Own just in case. You guys here are the only ones who get notes right now too.
Hopefully, the wait was worth it. And as another side note, can anyone suggest how I can communicate with the audience? Where would I go or what would I use if I wanted to give periodic updates to let you know I'm still active? let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance.
10/1/2018: I reread the chapter and found lines that I could've sworn I deleted or re-edited. Turns out I didn't upload the latest edited version (or google drive keeps undoing my changes). So, edited again. I don't think I'll ever be able to stop updating this thing, even when it's complete.
10/7/2018: I can't stop finding mistakes! More punctuation, grammar and spelling errors fixed, and some changed dialogue more in line with the characters. Probably gonna be more updates when I publish the next chapter too. I can't leave well enough alone.
Luna Song references:
Whole Lotta Love -Led Zeppelin, Moody Blue - Elvis Presley, Start Me Up - The Rolling Stones, Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We're Apart) - Paul Stanley (KISS), I don't know much, but I know I love you - Lynda Ronstadt/Lionel Richie, Slow Ride - Foghat
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The relationship between a big sister and a little brother is like the one between TV Gian and Nobita on weekdays, and Movie Gian and Nobita on the weekends.
... And like Frieza and Krillin during "that time of the month".