I may not be able to swing a baseball bat or use a paintbrush, but I can wield a wooden spoon with deadly precision and force, as Max had the painful experience of learning.
“Hands off,” I told him firmly as I turned back to my mixing bowl. “These are not for you.”
Max grimaced. “Ouch, Nessa! Was that really necessary? I think you gave me a welt!”
I smirked and patted him on the back before returning to the mixing bowl. “Serves you right for trying to sneak something that’s not yours.”
Max pouted and leaned against the wall. Even though I couldn’t see him, I could tell that he was eyeing my famous triple-fudge cookies. “Come on. This kitchen is filled with desserts as far as the eye can see! What difference would one less make? Besides, I’m a growing boy who needs all the nutrients he can get.”
“You stopped growing somewhere around the ninth grade. And if I gave you even one lemon bar, the rest of the plate – not to mention the whole kitchen – would be devoured before I could blink. Then you would have the privilege of explaining to my mother why I have no treats for the bake sale. Do you really want to face the wrath of my mother?”
Max was silent.
“That’s what I thought,” I crowed. I cracked a couple of eggs into the bowl.
But he still didn’t bother with a reply, and I looked back suspiciously to see what he was doing. My cheeks flamed as I realized he was leafing through the romance novel I had carelessly left on the table. He read a few pages, then raised his eyebrows without looking up. “What is this?”
“Um …” I searched for the right words. “That’s not mine, it’s Bree’s.” I felt guilty tossing my roommate under the bus, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.
“Uh-huh.” Max turned another page. I was debating between leaping across the room and ripping it from his hands – or just turning around and pretending nothing had happened – when he closed the book and tossed it back onto the table. “Do girls really think that is romantic?”
I couldn’t help but bristle a little. “What do you mean?”
Max sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “You know, guys spouting off undying declarations of love and planning surprise candlelit picnics at every turn … it just doesn’t seem all that romantic to me.”
Okay, so maybe some of the things in books and movies don’t happen in real life, but that doesn’t mean I appreciated my boyfriend critiquing my reading preferences. “Okay then, Romeo.” I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at him. The wooden spoon in my hand was a subtle threat: I meant business. “If you’re such an expert on love, what do you call romantic?”
“Anything can be romantic,” Max said finally, folding his arms, mirroring my defiant pose, although he towered a good six inches over me. “It doesn’t have to be some over-the-top scene from a chick flick.”
“With pleasure.” He leaned in close.
“Max …” I warned, trying but failing to keep the tremble out of my voice. “What are you doing?”
For a minute I thought he was about to kiss me, but at the last moment he lunged behind me, grabbed the mixing bowl, and dumped its contents on top my head. I screamed as the gooey eggs I had just cracked slid down my hair and over my face before taking a dive to the kitchen floor.
“Max!” I was about to take a step forward but was intercepted – by a cloud of flour hitting me in the face. I dragged an arm across my face to wipe the white film from my eyes. When I could see again, I was met with Max’s impish grin.
Without thinking, I grabbed the milk carton, and tossed it in his direction. It landed on the floor by his feet, exploding on impact, dousing him from head to toe. Instead of getting angry as I expected, he gave a resounding bark of laughter. While he was preoccupied, I snatched the bag of flour and deposited its remains over his head. He coughed on the fine powder, and it was my turn to laugh. It sounded more like a deranged cackle.
“I just tarred and feathered you!” I announced, flashing him an evil smile. “Actually, it’s more like milked and floured, but the idea is the same.”
“I forgot how crazy you can be,” Max murmured. He took a step toward me. Unfortunately, he failed to remember the carnage of milk, eggs, and flour spread across the floor. He slipped and hurtled into me, sending both of us to the floor in an awkward, not at all romantic pile of limbs.
Before we could untangle ourselves, a shriek reverberated around my small apartment. Max and I both looked up to see Bree standing in the doorway, grocery bags hanging forgotten from her arms.
“What happened here?” she stuttered. “It’s like the baby of a tornado and a hurricane threw a party in our kitchen!”
“Well,” I began. “Max was just …” I trailed off and glanced at a sheepish Max.
“Being romantic?” he offered weakly.
My roommate opened her mouth as if to speak but closed it. “I don’t even want to know,” she said as she left the room. “Just make sure that you have this cleaned up by the time I come back.”
Max and I exchanged a glance. “So what do you think?” he asked. “Was that romantic enough for you?”
I studied his white-clad figure and felt my dripping hair. The flour had combined with the egg whites, forming sticky clumps.
“Definitely better than any book,” I agreed.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.