Pure Taboo – Ivy Wolfe – What My Cousin Did
Pure Taboo – Ivy Wolfe – What My Cousin Did – SCENE fades slowly in on the backseat interior of a moving car – we see scenery fly past through the backseat window, half-obstructed by an 18-year old girl with her forehead wistfully pressed against the glass. She stares blankly out into the distance. For several seconds, we hear nothing but silence. Then slowly the sound fades in, muffled and bass-heavy at first, as the girl’s parents are having a conversation in the front we can’t hear or understand. After several seconds, the mother calls out what must be the girl’s name, though it’s too muffled for us to hear – but it causes the girl to snap out of her daze and perk her head up. The mother repeats herself, this time we can hear her clearly. ‘Rebecca, for God’s sakes can you try for just a couple of hours to listen when other people are talking?’ The teen girl, Rebecca, rubs her eyes with her sleeve, still looking a little out of it. ‘Sorry, mom, what were you saying?’ The mother shakes her head and makes an aside comment to the father driving the car before repeating herself to her daughter – she was saying that it will be nice to see the mother’s cousins Harold and Diane again, Rebecca hasn’t seen them since her high school graduation two years ago. Rebecca shrugs – yes, she supposes it will be nice, she says half-heartedly. ‘Todd too,’ the mother says off-hand, and she doesn’t notice that this causes Rebecca to make a pained face, ‘you know I don’t know why you two stopped getting along after high school, you used to be so close. Do you remember the time…?’ The mother continues her anecdote, oblivious, but Rebecca has stopped paying attention. She lies back in her seat, pushes her head back and covers her face with her arms. She lets out a controlled sigh, long but quiet, and her mother’s voice start to distort again.
Coming up the walkway to a large house, Rebecca’s parents (Karen and Bill) are greeted at the top by Harold and Diane, a married couple of roughly the same age as them. Loudly, they greet each other and chatter warmly as they move a bit closer towards the house. They talk about the state of the house, the weather, the bottle Karen and Bill brought, and so on. Over the shoulders of the foursome, we see Rebecca emerging into view more slowly, and she stands a short distance away from the group at the top of the steps, head bowed and shyly gripping her upper arm with her other hand. It takes the group several seconds to notice her standing there, but when they do, her parents scoff at her for being so reclusive, while Harold and Diane greet her warmly and urge her forward to give her a hug. Rebecca seems shy but appreciative of the affection. Harold and Diane gush over her with the usual family small -talk – how old must she be now? (‘Just turned 18 two months ago’ her mother boasts, ‘they grow up so fast!’), how is college, needling her about whether she has a boyfriend yet, and so on. They mention their own son, Todd, is also single but they feel he just hasn’t met the right girl yet because he’s an old soul for just being 19, very sensitive, etc. The mention of Todd causes Rebecca’s mood, which was gradually improving, to slip… though she tries not to show it. Eventually, the conversation takes its toll and Rebecca wants to get away, so she excuses herself to use the bathroom, saying she’s not feeling well. Harold and Diane express some concern, but she says she should be fine in a bit, so they tell her to join them all on the patio when she’s feeling better, Todd’s already there waiting for everyone. Rebecca ducks out and after she’s out of frame, Harold and Diane express some concern to Karen and Bill, but in hushed voices they reply that Rebecca gets like that a lot and they’ve learned to just put up with it.
CUT to a guest bedroom within the house, where Rebecca sneaks in and closes the door gently. She looks distressed, and spends some time trying to calm herself. She’s surprised when she hears a knock on the door about a minute later. ‘Who is it?’ she asks timidly. The door opens and a meek-looking guy steps in, her second cousin Todd. ‘Uh, it’s me,’ Todd says apologetically, ‘is everything OK? My parents said you were sick in the bathroom, I came to see if you needed some medicine, but you weren’t there.’ Rebecca looks sad and frustrated to be in his company. ‘I’m fine, Todd,’ she says bitterly. ‘I’ll come down in a bit, I just needed some space.’ Todd looks hurt and confused. That’s what she said the summer after graduation, that she needed some space from him, and then she stopped hanging out with him, stopped making plans with him, stopped texting him even. What’s going on with her? She scoffs – it’s not like they were best friends, or even siblings, they’re second cousins. They don’t have to be joined at the hip. Todd shakes his head, he doesn’t understand why she is acting like this. Acting like she hates him when they used to be so close.
‘Maybe too close,’ she lets slip. What does that mean? Todd asks. She shakes him off, ‘forget it’ she replies, but he doesn’t back down, no, what does she mean? Rebecca swallows hard. Does he not get it? He looks baffled, get what? She reminds him of an anecdote – about how after graduation they went out to celebrate at a bar with some fake IDs, them and a bunch of friends, and they were partying late into the night. She explains that when she went to order more cocktails, the bartender made a comment about ‘her and her boyfriend’ and pointed to Todd. At first Rebecca laughed it off, but when she got back to the table, she realized for the first time that Todd was being super friendly towards her, flirty even, he even put his arm around her shoulder. She realized he wasn’t just being friendly, he was in love with her, and she had to break things off. They may just be second cousins, but that’s still family, and she knew it was wrong.
Todd looks heartbroken – why didn’t she just say something to him? If she was worried he was going to react badly, she should know him well enough by now that he would respect her wishes. Everyone treats him like he’s so damn sensitive, but she never treated him like that, in fact that was one of the reasons he loved spending time with her so much is because he felt she ‘got’ him. Why did she have to cut him off without so much as an explanation or a goodbye? Rebecca looks uncomfortable – she brushes off his questions and moves to leave but Todd blocks her way. He gets more confrontational – he says he’s noticed how she looks miserable, how she doesn’t smile in any of the new pictures she’s been tagged in, how her body language has changed to shut herself off from everyone. He’s been worried about her, he just wants to have a fucking conversation with her, he misses her. Why is she acting like this?
Seeing no escape, Rebecca breaks down and admits – it wasn’t because she realized he had feelings for her that she broke things off with him, it’s because she had feelings for him. She never really realized it (or at least never admitted it to herself) until that night, but it scared her. And it scared her even more that he seemed into her too, because that would make it even harder to pretend like things were normal. She was worried that if she tried to talk to him about it, if she let him know how she felt, they’d do something she’d regret, so she decided it would be better for them both to make a clean break.
Todd looks at her incredulously, and scoffs sadly. Well, she was right about that. Now that he knows how she feels about him, he DOES want to do something they might regret later. She shrinks back, but he closes the gap, gently extending his arm out to the wall to discourage her from leaving the room or retreating further. He wants to make up for lost time. He wants her to make it up to him. He wants to kiss her. Can he kiss her? She takes a deep sigh, bites her lip… she’s determined to say no, but despite herself she says ‘yes’.