Tujunga Canyon, southern California, 1937
I’d just shut Tony’s car door when a back-burner question suddenly demanded front-and-center attention. The last time Greta and I had been to a movie, we’d hardly watched the thing, and that was when we were just allowed to hold hands. Now we could kiss, and I really needed advice. Fortunately, the one person in the entire world who I could ask without possibly dying of embarrassment was here, so I pulled Eileen aside with an urgent request for brother-sister time as Tony and Greta waited for tickets.
She was smiling faintly, in her superior elder-sister way, and that was intimidating, but I blurted it out anyway, as there was no time to work up to it. “Eileen, I really need to know. When I kiss Greta, should I use my tongue?” I could feel my blush hit, but I forced my eyes back up to meet hers.
There was a pause while Eileen considered, although I wouldn’t put it past her to stretch it out just to torment me. “Yes,” she said finally, and she even tacked on some advice. “Just be a gentleman.”
Aargh. I wanted to hit something. I’d been acting like a gentleman for months now, and I didn’t see how that was much help.
Her dimples showed as she added, “I mean, don’t shove your tongue down her throat. Be gentle, and keep it short unless Greta wants it to go longer. Like a dance. You invite—she responds. Okay?”
I nodded, repeating her words over to myself. I hoped this was enough instruction because there wasn’t time for any more. I gave her heartfelt thanks, and we rejoined the other two.
“What was that about?” Tony asked as we walked up to the door.
Eileen took his arm. “Just a little sisterly advice.”
I owed Eileen big. I bought her and Tony a large buttered popcorn as a down payment, with another for Greta and me. We sat in back with an empty pair of seats between us. I was glad for that because I didn’t think I could kiss Greta sitting next to my sister. I took the seat on the outside anyway, just to be safe.
Not long into the movie, Greta started giggling. “Eileen is really enjoying being with Tony,” she whispered to me. I adjusted my arm around Greta’s shoulders. Down, Callahan. She has no idea what whispering in your ear does to you.
“Well, we could watch Eileen and Tony, even though Eileen and I never rat on each other any more.” I gave her cheek a kiss. “We could even watch the movie.”
Greta smiled as her lashes met. I spent a moment just looking at her and that helped. Then I spent a little time covering familiar ground before I added something new. Eileen was right; it did end up being something like a dance, only much more stimulating. It was a good thing we were technically in a public place—I could not afford to do this with Greta out in the barn. Dad had already told me to stay away from the hayloft with her, but the idea probably would’ve occurred to me anyway, since I was currently thinking it in a movie theater.
I spent most of the movie kissing Greta. Someone on the screen made up from a fight and they kissed, too, but they couldn’t possibly be feeling as good about it as we were. We kissed some more to make sure, and then the movie was over.
When we got home, Tony and I stared at each other across a red haze of thwarted hormones. “Fight?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah.” I got him a spare pair of shorts, and the girls went off to giggle and compare notes or whatever it was girls did to recover from kissing. Tony and I put on gloves and squared off.
Tony needed to hit, and all he had was me. I got whooped; that was a foregone conclusion. But I hung with him, and okay, he blacked my eye some, but I could still see because he hadn’t been able to completely connect. I was definitely getting better at boxing. Then it reached a point where our punches lacked the sheer desperation we started with, and we were just a couple of guys sparring out in the barn. So we fought a little more for the joy of it, and then we changed to go back inside.
Greta and Eileen looked remote and untouchable, faerie queens graciously mingling with lesser mortals. Tony and I at least no longer looked like cavemen as we ate cake and cracked jokes about criminals running in fear once Tony finished the police academy.
Eileen drifted over, a knowing little smile on her face. “Congratulations, brother.” I really didn’t want the smile on her face to get any wider or Dad would be over here, and I didn’t want to deal with that right now.
So I thanked her before adding, “So much,” quietly enough that only she could hear. Okay, it was self-imposed torture, but it was completely worth it.
This is an excerpt from my novel, Patrick. book two in my Hans and Greta trilogy.