Recap: Lyle Colane is unemployed and living with his cousin, Shep. He’s also broken up with his girlfriend of two years, Annabelle Rogers. In the last few chapters, Shep and Lyle’s grandparents came over to visit. Lyle’s grandpa showed Lyle an ad for a job as a web developer. Lyle had to explain that, as a journalism major, he wasn’t remotely qualified.
“I don’t think I want to go to this party,” Lyle said.
“It’s too late – we’re here.” Shep pulled to a stop near a well-lit, two-story house. Cars crammed the driveway and lined both sides of the neighborhood street.
“How am I going to talk to any of these people?” Lyle asked. “I don’t want to explain that I’m laid off and living with my cousin.”
“No one will care that you’re laid off. I just wouldn’t tell them you’re living with your cousin.”
“It’s more than that. What if Brent or Annabelle are here?”
“I wouldn’t tell them that you’re living with your cousin, either.”
Lyle glared. “Could you be any less helpful?”
“Could you be any more helpless? I mean, c’mon Lyle – it’s a party. You need to throw everything down and let loose.”
“I think I’m going to let loose and throw everything up. I haven’t spoken to either Brent or Annabelle since the day I found them together.”
“You can’t avoid them forever,” Shep said. “Besides, you have every right to be here. Tom and Irene invited us.”
“Yeah, but Tom and Irene don’t know what happened. I don’t think anyone does. I haven’t told people, and Annabelle’s not the type to gossip — especially about herself.”
“Why do you think Tom and Irene don’t know? Would they not have invited Annabelle?”
“No — they wouldn’t have invited me. I mean, if you were having a party and you had to choose between me and Annabelle, who would you pick?”
“I’d have to go with Annabelle. Not just because she’s a chick, but because she’s far better-looking and way less annoying.”
“So you’d pick an adulteress over your own cousin?”
“I’d pick anyone over my own cousin. This is Reno — not rural Nevada.”
Lyle glared. “Can you be serious for a second? I’m worried over here.”
Shep rolled his eyes. “What are you so worried about? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?”
“I’m not sure what’s the worst that could happen, but whatever it is, I’m afraid of it happening.”
“All right,” Shep said, “I think I see what’s going on here. Can I psychoanalyze you for a minute?”
“If you can figure out in a minute what my therapist has been trying three years to solve, then by all means go ahead.”
“I think you’re worried about seeing Annabelle.”
“That’s fantastic, Freud.”
“Let me finish. You’re worried about seeing Annabelle because you’re still deeply in love with her. You’re afraid you’ll beg her to come back, and that she’ll say no. It’s the fear of rejection that scares you.”
“That figures. I have that fear around every woman.”
“You need to face it, Lyle: Annabelle’s not coming back.” Shep reached into the backseat to retrieve the wine they’d brought. “After all, she’s the one who left, remember? If you do cross paths, just be friendly and polite. Whatever you do, don’t beg her to come back and make a fool of yourself.”
“I’ll try not to beg her to come back, but I can’t promise I won’t make a fool of myself.”
“That’s the Lyle I know.” Shep grinned.
They climbed out of the car and walked up the pathway to the front door. Shep rang the bell.
“You see my new shoes?” Lyle asked. “I ordered them online.”
Shep frowned. “Why would I notice your shoes? Unlike you, I don’t walk with my head down.”
“I wanted a new pair for the party. Shoes are the first thing a woman notices about a man.”
“That’s not what I heard. I heard women judge you by your teeth.”
“They do judge you by your teeth. They judge you by everything. But it’s the shoes they notice first. If you have a beat-up pair of shoes, they won’t even move on to your teeth.”
“So it’s the shoes first, teeth second?”
“That’s right: Shoes first, teeth second. Then they move on to your personality.”
“And then that’s where it all falls apart,” Shep said.
Lyle shook his head. “Not with me. I usually don’t even make it past the shoes. That’s why I ordered a new pair.”
“How can you afford new shoes, anyway? You’re unemployed, remember? I thought you were on a budget.”
“I am on a budget. Shoes fit into my budget.”
“So shoes fit into your budget, but rent doesn’t?”
“It’s a very meager budget.”
“Uh-huh.” Shep narrowed his eyes.