The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson
Nice socks? Smooth is not a word anyone anywhere would ever use to describe me. In fact, in the dictionary, under a picture of me, Andre Rosario, would be a list of words that are the opposite of smooth. Bumpy, lumpy, knobby, stony, rocky, rugged, rutted, pitted. I could go on, but I probably shouldn’t. You get the point.
But what else was I supposed to say to Dean Arnault, the son of my father’s sworn enemy, and therefore my sworn enemy? Okay, fine. “Enemy” is probably me being a little extra, but he’s still the son of my dad’s political opponent in the presidential race, and the holder of some highly questionable political opinions, and therefore not someone I should’ve been talking to except that his family and my family were in the same room at the same time and someone thought it would be a great photo op, so they kept shoving us together. I had to say something before things got super uncomfortable.
Also, they really were nice socks.
Dean Arnault reached up to brush his hand through his hair, stopped, and dropped his hand to his side like he could hear his mother telling him not to mess up the hard work his stylist had put into making him the perfect picture of a young Republican. Sandy hair with an aggressive side part and not a strand out of place, brown eyes, freckled cheeks, a roman nose, and a chiseled jaw with a tiny dimple in his chin. Not that I thought he was cute. He was wearing loafers, for heaven’s sake. Loafers! Like a forty-year-old man on his way to the country club to shoot eighteen holes and discuss long-term investment options.
“Thank you,” Dean said after a pause that was too short to be long and too long to be brief. It was like he was on a tape delay so that the censors monitoring him through implants in his brain could bleep out anything scandalous before it had the chance to leave his mouth.
“Could you squeeze in a little more?” the photographer said. “This one’s for the history books.”
“Yes,” Janice Arnault said. “The caption underneath will read ‘President Arnault and family with presidential hopeful Tomás Rosario.’”
Everyone, including my parents, laughed like Governor Arnault had told a stunningly hilarious joke instead of insinuating that she was going to win the election, even though she was trailing my father by three points according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
“Or,” I said, “it might read—” My mother pinched the back of my arm, and I yelped. She was still smiling, but her eyes told me that this was not the time for my mouth, and that if I didn’t shut it, there would be oh-so-much hell to pay when we got home.
“It might read something else,” I mumbled, but no one was paying attention to me anymore. Which was probably for the best.
I tried not to make any inappropriate faces while the photographer was snapping pictures, but it was pretty difficult. I’d already made concessions by putting on that ridiculous tan suit, even if I worked it harder than any tan suit had been worked in its life. What I’d really wanted to wear was some kind of fabulous suit-gown hybrid like I’d seen Billy Porter strut the red carpet in multiple times. I’d even conceded to cleaning the polish off my fingernails for the night, though I’d then painted my toes Tangerine Scream in protest. Plus, I’d allowed my mom’s stylist to cut three inches off my hair even though I’d liked my hair the way it was. All of those concessions had left me with very little patience for putting up with Janice Arnault and the Von Frat family.
“Dre?” My dad nudged me as the photographer asked for some photos of just the Arnaults. “You’re not still upset with me, are you?”
I shrugged, refusing to look at my dad. “Upset? Why would I be upset? It’s not like I had plans tonight and that you essentially forced me at gunpoint to abandon my best friend in order to attend this.”
“I’m sure Mel understands,” Dad said. “And there was no gun.”
“May as well have been.” I had trouble seeing my dad the way other people did. To one half of the country, he was the passionate, handsome, future leader of the country. To the other half, he was a baby-killing, Satan-worshipping foreigner who had no business running anything other than a convenience store. But to me, he was the guy who sang Beyoncé