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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

December 22: Forefather’s Day

As part of a larger effort to support her in this time of need, I have spent the last twenty-four hours with Nikki. First off, Mrs. Abrams drove us up to the Fashion Mall north of Indy for some last-minute holiday shopping. Despite my mom’s unmitigated adoration of bargains and window displays, I somehow failed to inherit the shopping gene altogether. Among my peccadilloes is that I could spend hours feeling fabric and staring at myself in dressing room mirrors, but if I’m not in the “buying mood,” I won’t even splurge for a Twix bar.

My affliction today was of a more seasonal nature: Whenever I go shopping for others, especially near Christmas, I only find stuff for me. Does everyone have this problem? I mean, who knew that jeans could be this flawlessly form-fitting, with a special “short” version for my diminutive legs? And when did they become so exorbitantly expensive?

Ultimately, with help from Nikki’s mom, I finished all my shopping (and pretty much drained my checking account). In the perpetually impossible “male” category, I outdid myself. For Dad, I found a device that discerns when calls are from telemarketers and automatically hangs up on them. Dad’s love of gadgets is directly proportional to his animosity toward telemarketers, so the gift couldn’t have been more felicitous. I got my little bro Rico a Burton snowboarding jacket because he’s Mr. X-treme Sports Guy. For Jeremy, I got a Puma watch with a wide leather armband that makes it look almost like a bracelet.

Dinner at Nikki’s house is always a great time. Her parents are such gourmands. While she cooked, Mrs. Abrams told us the fairy tale about how she met Mr. Abrams—or Hugh, as she calls him—in Paris in 1963. As many times as we’ve heard it, it never seems to get old. When she got to the part where she chooses Mr. Abrams over the young, beautiful, African modern dancer/glass-blower, I asked a question.

“But how’d you know you were picking the right one?”

“Well, when you’re young,” she said, “you can’t. Your criteria is single- faceted, you know. You just want a cute guy, or a guy who can dance, or who buys you dinner. But once you’ve dated around some, you start looking for what I call The Whole Package.”

“The whole package?” I asked.

“Yes. You have to find him attractive, of course. But there are also all the intangibles like intelligence and conversational skills and imagination and sensitivity and beneficence . . .”

“The Whole Package,” I said.

“That’s right,” Mrs. Abrams said. “Don’t forget it.”

“Luke is The Whole Package,” Nikki said disconsolately.

“No he’s not,” I said. “He’s a powertool.”

“Food’s ready!” Mrs. Abrams said, in a stroke of exemplary timing.

Luckily, dinner was an efficacious way of taking Nikki’s mind off of Luke. The first course was chilled pepper bisque with crabmeat and onions sprinkled on top. The entrée was pan-seared tuna with garlic confit and a side of ratatouille.

“Mmmm,” I moaned. “This is so scrumptious. My parents probably had Domino’s delivered tonight.”

Nikki raised her glass of grape juice to propose a toast. “To my dorky parents, whom I love dearly.”

“Aww . . .” We clinked glasses. Claudia stood up. “To me finally getting a cell phone.” Laughter. More clinking. Mrs. Abrams stood up. “Such a touching request, Claudia,” she said, putting a hand over her heart. She raised her glass and gave Nikki a quick glance. “And here . . . here’s to moving past failed relationships.”

I looked at Nikki. Clearly not psyched. She looked like she wanted to say, “May I be excused?” We all clinked glasses anyway.

It was my turn. I didn’t have anything planned. I raised my glass. “Uh, to Christmas Eve Eve Eve? Or maybe not. How about, to finding the one with The Whole Package. To falling in love and staying in love, like Mr. and Mrs. Abrams.”

“Ohhh,” Mrs. Abrams said. “How sweet.”

We clinked our glasses and imbibed.

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