Do Wa Diddy

"Nadine, honey, do you have a sec?" Grandma said as Nadine headed for the door on Monday morning.

"I'm late for school," she called back into the office. She wasn't, technically, but the three-inch platform boots she was wearing today meant she wasn't going to be able to run like she usually did, so she would be late for school if she didn't leave now.

Grandma leaned out the door of the office, bronze with her new Aruba tan. "I won't keep you, then. But do you have plans this weekend?"

"Yes," said Nadine, hoping Grandma wouldn't ask for details. Because if Grandma knew, Aunt Tilda would know. And if Aunt Tilda knew, Davy would know. And if Davy knew Nadine was planning to go to a party with a new guy, he'd con his way into meeting him. And if Davy met Joe -- definitely a doughnut, Nadine had thought the day Joe transferred in and joined her physics class, and who doesn't crave a gooey custard-filled chocolate-covered cavity-inducing boston creme doughnut from time to time? -- Davy would frighten Joe off so quickly that all she'd see of him would be the redshift as he vanished.

But Grandma just nodded, distracted. "Cancel them, then, would you?"

"Wait!" said Nadine. "I have plans." But Grandma was gone.

Nadine only caught the end of the argument as she and Ethan left the cafeteria.

"It is so by Hilary Duff," said Bimbette Number One a.k.a. Zoey. "I saw it on YouTube. She was on a motorcycle, and she was singing about how her parents didn't like her boyfriend or something."

"God, you are such a retard," said Bimbette Number Two a.k.a. Poppy. "That was American Dreams, not real. That means it was a cover."

"I think it was by Hilary Duff," piped up Stefanie. She didn't get a Bimbette number; she was just a sidekick.

Bimbette Number Two glared at her. "It's by one of those classic rock bands my dad listens to, from, like, the old days. The Beatles or Run-D.M.C. or something, so it's a guy singing. And he's singing about this girl, and how her parents suck but she ends up doing what she wants anyway."

"I saw Hilary Duff sing it on YouTube," said Bimbette Number One, crossing her arms and sticking her pointy hip out, trying to prove her point by the sheer weight of being a size smaller than Bimbette Number Two.

Nadine sighed. I shouldn't, I know I shouldn't. "It's by the Shangri Las," she said, her mouth obviously faster than her brain. "'Leader of the Pack.' Covered by Twisted Sister in the eighties, which a liberal interpretation of 'classic rock from the old days' could be said to cover."

Oh, damn, though Nadine, as Bimbettes One, Two, and Company swiveled as one to fasten steely gazes upon her. Now I'm screwed. Ethan took a step back and hid behind her. "My hero," she whispered, and he replied, just as quietly, "Don't you dare drag me into this, Goodnight."

"I'm sorry, dyke," said Bimbette Number One. "Did someone tell you you could leave the loser hall?"

"Now, now, Zoey, don't be unkind," sneered Bimbette Number Two. "Just because someone's father is a filthy faggot doesn't make her a lesbo." Ethan grabbed Nadine's upper arm, yanking her back -- or, no, he was holding her still and she must have started moving forward.

"Oh, my apologies. I meant freak, not dyke," said Bimbette Number One.

Nadine didn't hear what Bimbette Number Two replied; the roaring in her ears pretty much blocked it out. She did manage to hear the gales of shrieking laughter behind them, though, as Ethan dragged her away as fast as he could.

"That's great, Ethan," Aunt Tilda was saying as Nadine came up the stairs on Tuesday afternoon. "Now take the number twenty five burnisher -- no, the one that looks like a hockey stick. Good! Hi, Nadine." Ethan started and looked over his shoulder. He was bent over Aunt Tilda's worktable, a sheet of glass and a book of gold leaf in front of him. "We started without you, hope you don't mind."

"Of course I don't mind," Nadine said, her big workboots clomping as she dropped her bag in the studio's corner. "I've only been begging you to teach me how to gild for months."

Aunt Tilda grinned. "That's the spirit. Hey, nice coverall." Nadine glanced down at herself. The fabric paint she'd used had changed colors as it dried, turning the blue mongoose on the lapel a startling purple. "What's 'Luma Lube'?"

Nadine shrugged. "God knows. Or Davy, maybe. He gave it to me. Remember that ass Colby, the one with the bowl? His aunt found a pile of stuff in the attic that her creeptastic nephew hadn't boosted, and dumped it on Davy's dad. Who dumped it on Davy, who gave some of it to me."

"Well I like it," said Aunt Tilda. "Grab a burnisher, come do some gold leaf."

Ethan shifted to make room for her at the table. "I think it looks cool," he said, waving his burnisher at her coverall. "What is that, a ferret?"

"Mongoose," Nadine replied.

"Purple. It's good, works for me," said Aunt Tilda. "Hey, are you excited about this weekend?"

"You mean the party I can't go to because my plans got changed against my will?" said Nadine. "Yeah, thrilled, of course."

Aunt Tilda turned to her, crossing her arms over her paint stained T-shirt. "Oh, baby, don't be like that. I'm sorry about your party, but --" She broke off at the clatter of Davy's shoes on the stairs. "Hey, Ralph," she said, turning to the door as Davy walked in. "How was your day?"

"It's a jungle out there, Betty," he replied. "The furniture world is filled with crooks and liars, I tell you."

"No!" gasped Aunt Tilda, throwing her hands up in the air. "It can't be!" Then she grinned and leaned into Davy for a kiss that Nadine should definitely not have been witnessing. She shot Ethan a look. He was blushing beet-red, and he reached up to cover her eyes.

Sometimes it made Nadine happy just to watch Ethan's enthusiasm. She walked beside him on the way home from school, watching him rave about the book he'd just finished reading.

"They keep making up band names, like Baby Batter and Tennis with Guitars," he said, waving the paperback at her. "And the kid keeps having to read Catcher in the Rye in school every year, because his teachers are all crazy and obsessive. And all of the other students in high school are evil, and the adults are worse. It's all about the generation gap and how adults and kids can never communicate. Totally realistic."

"So it's Rebel Without a Cause?"

"'You know something? You read too many comic books,'" said Ethan. "And no, not Rebel Without a Cause. More Pump up the Volume, only with more bands and less pirate radio." He looked at her expectantly.

"Um." Nadine searched her memory. "Is that the one with the line about the cock ring?"

Ethan grinned. "Yeah, but try 'Sometimes being young is less fun than being dead.' Fits better. Ow!" He went flying.

"Hey, dorkwad, watch where you're going!" laughed Naresh, pulling his Doc Martened foot back now that Ethan had tripped over it.

"Yeah, nerd," said Mike, flicking his lit cigarette to the sidewalk as Ethan scrambled up. "Someone could get hurt."

Crap, crap, crap. This is what came of not paying attention to where you were going. Ethan took Nadine's hand and started to back up but they smacked right into a wall of leather. A couple of the guys -- Eric, and someone else Nadine didn't know -- had stepped up behind them, hemming them in. She gripped Ethan's hand a little tighter and looked around, looking for something useful. All she saw were a bunch of high school assholes, smoking and trying to look tough, egging each other on. But wait, there, at the back of the crowd. Was that Burton?

It was. She lifted her chin and glared at him. He looked away, wordless, but he shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably. Finally he said, "Whatever, dudes. Let's go to the 7-eleven. I'm hungry."

The guys dissipated, jostling and body checking Nadine and Ethan as they headed toward the 7-eleven. "I wanna Slurpee," she heard one of them say, and another responded, "Slurp this, fag." Burton was the last to leave, but he didn't look at Nadine again. Finally they were alone on the sidewalk. Ethan put his arms around her, and she realized she was shaking.

"I never thought I'd be glad you dated that doughnut," Ethan said, and she realized he was shaking, too.

"Sometimes I really miss being a teenager," said Nadine's mother on Wednesday night, as she carefully adjusted her Louise wig. "Everything was much less complicated."

"Weren't you pregnant with your gay boyfriend's kid when you were a teenager?" asked Nadine. Davy snorted a laugh.

"Well, yes," said Mom. "But that wasn't complicated."

"It was for me," muttered Tilda, and Davy rested his hand on the small of her back.

"It got us you, sweetie," said Dad, smiling at her as he pulled on his coat to go with Mom to the Double Take.

Jeff stepped up behind Dad, wrapped his arms around Dad's chest, and rested his chin on Dad's shoulder. "Nothing complicated about our Nadine," he said, grinning.

Grandma and Ford came down the stairs, both dressed to the nines. Grandma had all these snazzy clothes now like she had never worn before Aruba. "What about Nadine?" asked Grandma.

Nadine rolled her eyes. "There is way too much cute going on in here right now. Nice dress, Grandma." Grandma did little spin, showing off her sparkly cocktail dress. "Ethan and I are going out to the movies. See you guys later."

"Thanks for clearing up this weekend for us, honey!" Dad called after her.

"What are you so freaked out about?" said Joe, slamming his locker door. "It's just a little E."

"I'm not freaked out," said Nadine. "I'm just not interested."

"So what, are you going to narc on me?" Joe towered over her, even when he was slouching against the lockers. "First some crappy excuse to ditch the party Friday night, and now this. I thought you were cool."

I thought you were, too, Nadine thought, but it wasn't true. She'd always known Joe was a jerk, but he was total eye candy -- gooey custard-filled chocolate-covered cavity-inducing boston creme -- and he liked her, and even liked her Lucy Ricardo dress. "I'm not going to narc on you," she said. "I'm just not going to join you."

"Whatever," said Joe, and Nadine, who could interpret a wide variety of "whatevers", knew what this one meant. It meant this is over, and, if she were going to be honest with herself, she had to agree.

E, for God's sake, she thought. Total doughnut.

Nadine straightened her vintage butterfly peplum and peter pan collar, and selected a jukebox song.

"Let's do it, come on and do it," sang the Crystals. "To the right, to the left."

"Hey, kid," said Davy, looking up from the leather couch. "Excited about this weekend?"

Nadine crossed her arms, leaned against the jukebox, and glared at him. "I might be," she said. "If anyone would tell me what the hell is going on."

Davy sat up. "What you mean?"

"Nobody tells me anything," Nadine said, sliding down the side of the jukebox to sit on the floor. She reached over to pet Steve the dog disconsolately. "It's just tell the teenager to cancel her weekend plans and tell the teenager to con the customers and tell the teenager to date her best friend."

"I thought you liked conning the customers," said Davy, but he got up to sit beside her, and Steve climbed into his lap. "Seriously? Nobody has told you what this weekend's plans are?" He laughed, leaning his head back against the jukebox. "Goodnights. I don't know how you people survived without a keeper."

"We had a keeper, we had Jeff," said Dad, coming into the room, Jeff on his heels. "Now we have a keeper and a Dempsey."

"Some keeper," said Davy. "Neither of you told Nadine what's up for this weekend."

Andrew stilled. "Oh. Er. Oops?"

Jeff plopped down on the couch and started laughing.

Nadine grabbed Steve the dog off Davy's lap and snuggled him. "So?" she said. "What's the big event?"

Andrew sat in one of the chairs at the poker table. "Well, see, me and Jeff, and the family, well. Yeah. Um." He trailed off.

"I see why people are always saying teenagers are inarticulate," said Nadine, grimly.

Jeff stopped laughing and beamed at her. "Your dad and I have decided to go up to Massachusetts and get married. So Ford bought plane tickets for the whole family -- that's why he and Gwen are visting -- and we're making a party of it."

"What?" Nadine yelped. Steve wiggled out of Nadine's arms and ran out of the room.

Davy's eyebrows rose. "Nadine," he said warningly, but Andrew cut him off.

"Nadine, baby," he said. "Are you okay with this?"

Nadine put her hands over her face. "You decided to get married and you didn't tell me?" she yelled, muffled by her hands. "You jerks." Then she looked up, scrubbing at her wet cheeks. "I hate you both," she said, and barreled toward Jeff on the couch, wrapping her arms aroud him. "You totally suck," she sniffled into his jacket.

"Yeah, we do," said Jeff, his arms coming around her. "That's adults for you."

"So I'm the maid of honor, right?" she asked.

"Best man, actually," said Dad, and she felt the couch dip as he sat next to her and Jeff. He stroked her hair.

"Hey, I'm the best man," said Davy, affronted.

"Best con man, maybe," said Nadine, and she straightened up to shoot him a dirty look. "But we all know who's the best man around here."

"Me?" said Dad, hopefully, as Ethan and Aunt Tilda came in with a gilded picture frame.

"'She said, is Andrew the very best man for me, on this earth?'," said Ethan. "Look what I made." He pointed at the picture frame.

"'No! And I mean no!' 28 Days," said Davy. "But I think Jeff would say yes."

"No shit," said Jeff, and leaned over Nadine to pull Andrew into a long kiss. Tilda and Ethan whistled and whooped.

"Dad and Jeff are getting hitched," Nadine said, beaming.

"Cool!" said Ethan. "Sometimes, life doesn't suck."

"Yeah," said Nadine. "Family's all right."

"'We're so happy and that's how we're gonna stay'," said Aunt Tilda.

And Nadine knew she was right.