Logan Bright 2016 – Novakovich 5e7
Daniel was in the throes of puberty when he was invited to a party at Simon’s. They lived on the same street but at opposite polarities: it was bisected by Main Street, forming north and south sides of the street. Simon’s mother was not a strict woman, and once a month or so Simon would have people overnight to drink pilfered booze, listen to classic rock, and watch movies until the sun came around again.
Daniel didn’t drink and normally passed on these nights out, but when he learned that Lucy was going to be there, he agreed to go. His crush on her had been growing that semester during their shared applied maths course; she didn’t need his help with the homework, but he wished she did. Lucy was dating one of Daniel’s friends but Daniel felt a strong connection with her, thought maybe she felt the same way. Lucy’s boyfriend wasn’t going to be there that night.
The night of the party the half dozen kids sat in a small room of the basement upon milk crates and the deep freezer while Simon’s stereo roared with Deep Purple and Foghat. They drank frothy mixtures of fruit juice and vodka or lukewarm beers while Daniel kept to soda. The atmosphere was warm: a few of Daniel’s best friends were there in the ragged circle, and Daniel was never made to feel like a zealous Puritan for turning down the booze.
The night wound on and the troupe made their way en masse to a nearby convenience store, Simon leading the way with his guitar strapped to his side and a pocket amplifier that announced their arrival among the bright Mylar packages. All along the walk there and back Daniel and Lucy talked and laughed and Daniel tried not to think about her boyfriend, wherever he was tonight. Things were always a bit rocky between Lucy and him, Daniel knew, but he was never sure whether any given day was up or down.
Lucy intimated to Daniel on the walk back to the house that she was worried Simon might try to make a move on her that night, and was clear that she wouldn’t be happy if he did. Daniel made his mind up to protect her, if and when things came down to that.
Their snacks secured, and Simon’s mother gone off to bed, the group settled into the living room on the main floor and put a movie on. The couch in front of the TV sat three comfortably, but four or even five could crowd onto it, with others occupying the floor or the single easy chair in the corner. Another movie followed the first. The couch people cleared off and rearranged themselves during the break, and when they returned, Simon was crammed next to Lucy.
Daniel came back from the bathroom to find only the floor was free. In the hard blue light of the tube TV he grabbed Simon’s wrists and manhandled the larger boy – who by this point had been drinking so long that he more or less acquiesced – pulling and rolling him until Simon spilled onto the floor. Daniel slipped in beside Lucy and those still awake laughed at his tenacity in securing a comfortable seat. Simon soon fell asleep without protest.
Deep into the film Daniel was alive at the site of contact where his arm touched Lucy’s. She was leaning forward in her seat, and he ran his fingers along her back, feeling the soft cotton of her t-shirt, the bumpy track of her bra strap. She didn’t say anything, but shifted away from him. Over the course of the film he continued to caress her back with his fingertips, up and down, as she pulled further away. When the sun broke through the windows and outshone the glow of the TV, Lucy got up and left without speaking.
At school on Monday, Lucy greeted Daniel with a curt word and no more. He sat at his desk, one behind hers, and wondered who knew about what had happened. He would later discern that everyone knew. He would find that this dark knowledge would hang above his every interaction with Lucy, Simon, and the rest, like an ugly purple storm cloud.