Last year, I wrote a little short story for Meet Cute, a lovely event at the Wheeler Centre where some YA authors and emerging teen writers shared some swoon-worthy YA rom-coms.
My piece was called Doritos, and it’s centred on one of the things I personally find most romantic: when your partner values the things you like, and sometimes comes to like them themselves. In this case, it’s a certain very famous romance series about seven foot tall blue aliens…
If you’d like to read Doritos in a PDF, you can do so here: Doritos. Otherwise, it’s below.
I knew Kip was a keeper when he read Ice Planet Barbarians for me.
I want to be clear about one thing: I did not ask him to read Ice Planet Barbarians for me. This was not some warped relationship ultimatum, some galaxy brain test to see how much he cared – “read this book or we’ll have to break up”. Nothing like that. No.
We had reached the stage of our relationship when we’d achieved a kind of rhythm with each other. A routine. Nadia, my best friend, said it sounded like we were getting predictable and that if we kept doing the same thing all the time we were going to get bored with each other.
And, like, maybe she was right. She was all about keeping things fresh and shaking things up and making every day an adventure and being unpredictable. She’d been with her girlfriend Teresa for nearly two years, ever since the Year Ten formal, and Kip and I had only been together for four months, so I could hardly presume to know better than her how to make a relationship work.
But I liked that we had a rhythm with each other. That every day wasn’t an adventure. That it was a bit predictable. It made me feel comfortable.
Not that “comfortable” was how I felt the day he found my copy of Ice Planet Barbarians.
It was Sunday night. We were studying together in my bedroom. The door was half open to appease my mother – less because she was worried that we might, gasp, have sex under her roof, and more because I think she wanted to double check that Kip wasn’t distracting me from studying. Our Year Twelve exams were on the horizon, and I’d always been a real eyes-on-the-prize type. Mum would have forgiven me for bad exam results – it wouldn’t even have been a question – but she knew I wouldn’t forgive myself.
She needn’t have worried. Kip was as big a rule-following nerd as I was. There was a reason the majority of our routine right now was based around studying.
Which was why it was kind of a surprise when he said something.
We used a Pomodoro method when we were studying together. We concentrated for twenty-five minutes, and then we took a five-minute break, before we started the cycle again.
But, “Babe –“ he said in minute seventeen of Pomodoro five (he called me babe a lot, and I liked it, even though I kind of suspected that made me a bad feminist, although if you asked me why I suspected it made me a bad feminist I probably couldn’t have given you a concrete reason), “babe, tell me about this.”
“Just a second,” I said absently. I was three quarters of the way through a differential equation, and if I lost my train of thought, I’d have to start all over again.
He waited. It was such a little thing, but it was one of the things I liked most about him, one of the reasons I’d developed a crush on him in the first place, when our Year Eleven History teacher had suddenly decided he wanted to be an assigned seating autocrat and put us next to each other. Kip took your requests seriously, even if the stakes weren’t particularly high. He listened.
Plus, he had great hair.
I finished the equation in minute nineteen and put my pen down. “Sorry. What is it?”
He put the book down in front of me. “Tell me about this.”
I did not want to blush.
I read romance. Sometimes pretty horny romance. I was not ashamed of that fact. Kip knew all of this.
I blushed anyway. There was a difference between your boyfriend knowing you enjoyed reading some pretty horny romance and him knowing you enjoyed reading some pretty horny romance featuring blue aliens with literal horns.
“Nadia bought it for me,” I said. “As a joke.”
This was true. Nadia had come across the series when it was this big self-published hit on TikTok and bought me the first book at Readings when it came out in a new edition.
“Babe,” Kip said, grinning and brushing his thumb along my cheekbone, “you are bright red.”
“And you,” I said, pointing at my phone, where the timer was still counting down, “are interrupting our Pomodoro.”
“Sorry,” he said. “I finished my practice English essay and got distracted looking at your bookshelves. Tell me about it. Tell me about the ice planet barbarians.”
I closed my eyes for a second, took a deep breath, then opened them again. “Okay, so these human women get abducted by aliens – bad aliens – but they crash-land on this planet, and they meet these good aliens –”
“– the ice planet barbarians?”
“– yes. They meet them, and they fall in love with them, and there are a bunch of tropes that I really wouldn’t like if you told me about them in isolation, but I can’t stop reading these books.”
Kip blinked. “Wait. There’s more than one?”
“I can’t answer that.”
“What, because you’re embarrassed?”
“No,” I said. “I mean, yes, but also because figuring that out would be more complicated than all these differential equations. There are a lot of them. And there are spinoff series, and – you know how when you open a bag of Doritos, and you’re like, great, I’ll have just one, maybe a couple, and then suddenly you blink and you’ve eaten them all? That’s what happened. I blinked and suddenly I’d read like forty horny blue alien romances. Don’t look at my Kindle. There are so many.”
I buried my face in my hands.
“Babe,” he said, still laughing, taking my wrists and gently prying my hands away, “I’m sorry. And I’m frankly pretty impressed with your time management. I know how much you study. I don’t know how you fit all the horny blue aliens into your schedule.”
“It’s like I said,” I mumbled. “They’re Doritos. One bite and they’re gone.”
He picked up my copy of Ice Planet Barbarians. “Can I borrow this?”
“Don’t laugh at my horny blue aliens,” I said. “They’re my emotional support horny blue aliens.”
“Well, then, maybe they can be our emotional support horny blue aliens,” he said. “If you say they’re tasty Doritos, I believe you. I like Doritos too.”
Then he leaned in, brushing his nose against mine. “Plus,” he said, breath warm against my lips, “they’ve got to be pretty good if they’re making you turn that colour. Maybe I can learn some things.”
I chuckled. “You’re doing fine on your own,” I told him, stroking some of his hair behind his ear, “but study never hurt anyone.”
He laughed again, and then he kissed me, and – then the Pomodoro timer went off and ruined the moment.
“So I was up until one thirty eating Doritos,” he told me the next morning, sitting down beside me in first period history. He dropped his bag on the floor, then caught my hand in his, pressing it to his lips. “Morning, babe.”
“Morning to you too,” I said. “How many Doritos?”
“One and a half.”
“They’re short,” he said, a little defensively. “And I read fast. You know that.”
I did know that. “What do you think?”
“Okay, so I have a theory,” he said. “The horny blue alien stuff – good. Fine. Sexy. But it’s the world-building –“
“Yes!” I said. “Exactly! They’re kind of, like, about town planning. About building a society from the ground up. And it’s really interesting.”
“I want to know more about the caves where they live,” Kip said. “How that whole system functions. Do we find out?”
He’d said that word – we – a million times before. But something about this time was special.
We. Him and me. Me and this nerd and his great hair, sitting here with his fingers laced through mine. Together.
Impulsively, I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
“Yes,” I said. “You better believe we’ll find out.”