BALLARDVALE BLUES - DAY TWO
Jessica hadn’t closed her shades when she collapsed onto her bed last night, a grave mistake. Light had never been as unwelcome an intruder as it currently was. She turned her back to the window, but it didn’t matter. The day had started; she just wasn’t ready for it. With a throbbing head and a heart rattling into her diaphragm repeatedly, her blood vibrated to complete the hat trick. She rarely puked, an attribute she sported with pride. Thinking better of submitting to her bed all day, she forced herself up and out into the small common area she shared with her roommate. Becca had abandoned part of a pizza on the counter.
Jessica sat down on her couch with a glass of water and a stolen slice and turned the TV on. With the volume on low, the high-pitched noise it emitted buzzed in her ears, light beamed into her eyes and throbbing pulsed through her knee. She lifted her pant leg to see hues of blue and purple infuse the tissue. Shit. Where’d that come from? Her feet were in even worse shape too. Her shoes had come off somewhere along the way home; she remembered that much. Jessica settled back into her couch and traded pizza in favor of her phone. The one bite she’d attempted had turned her stomach. The ID read “missed call.” She ignored it though; she never answered phone calls, and instead opened Facebook.
Danny had been tagged in last night’s antics, as had she. She took a minute to reject the photos of herself she didn’t like and then scrolled through the news feed and saw Kate Kern’s status update.
Jessica didn’t realize she had been back in town and wondered why Danny hadn’t mentioned it. Perhaps he hadn’t seen her yet; Jessica and he had become much better friends in Kate’s absence. They both returned to Ballardvale for semester breaks, but Jessica could always feel how much less in sync Kate was with the vibe at home. She was a little stiffer, somewhat uptight, and undeniably exclusive.
Jessica opened her texts, not being able to resist ferreting out whether or not Danny knew if Kate was around.
Hey. She sent to him and waited a few moments. Whats up?
iPhone ellipses were the worst.
Nothing, was all she got back. All the ellipses for a nothing. I feel like shit. Danny actually felt worse than shit, but more descriptive language eluded him. He didn’t know why Jessica was texting him, but the vibration from his phone was the only reason he even woke up. When he looked over, he remembered the previous night- the shitty vodka, the ping pong balls bouncing all over the place, and the once hot girl that had magically morphed into the specimen currently passed out next to him.
What happened to you last night? His phone buzzed again.
He looked back to his left. Nothing. He needed to get home and shower, but first he needed food. The greasiest food ever. I’m getting breakfast, meet me at Addie’s?
Just gonna be Addie there? Jessica’s question shot back at him.
Dunno if I can, I’ve got work but I’ll talk to you later.
Danny slithered away from the bed, careful to be quiet, pulled on his pants and laced up his shoes. Getting the hell out of there was a priority at the moment, so he grabbed his shirt and snuck out best he could without waking whomever that was lying next to him.
Everything looked different at night than it did in the day, even in a small town, but he wove as best he could back towards Main St. from memory. One quick stop in at Henry’s and he’d be on his way to food; he needed his paycheck.
A bathroom break was necessary and he ran water over his face a bit as he was already there, rubbing oily skin and looking up into the dirt encrusted mirror. The dingy light tended to make his brown eyes a little darker and his dishwasher blonde hair a little dirtier. Outside, he sorted through the mail on the main desk for his paycheck. Grabbing it from the stack, he passed Henry, a portly old curmudgeon, on the way into the back of the garage.
“What’re you doing here? You aren’t on the schedule today,” Henry grunted.
Danny raised up his paycheck, “Just needed to grab this.”
“Fine.” He looked at him suspiciously, “I’ll see you tomorrow then,” and he shuffled off into the office. Danny continued to the back of the garage, intending to cut through the alley and into the back end of the diner.
“What’re you doing here?”
“I was just taking a squirt for the road and–” Danny turned to see not only Johnny, but also a girl standing next to him. She was a head shorter than Johnny, but had the same brown eyes and honey hair, “-grabbing my paycheck,” He paused for a beat, waiting to be introduced.
“Hey,” she ventured out towards him.
“How was the beer?” Johnny ignored this.
“Best beer I ever had,” Danny glanced over to the girl again.
Johnny rolled his eyes. “This is Maggie-“
“Hi, I’m Danny,” He didn’t care much for Johnny to continue on.
“-My sister, from Johnston.”
“Hi Danny,” she smiled. “What’s with the best beer ever?”
“Oh,” he said, “nothing, nothing. Just a thing, I’ll get a free mug at the end.”
“Oh, is the mug special?” she asked.
“I dunno, Mags,” Johnny said, “would you care about a beer mug with your name engraved on it?” He threw the remainder of his cigarette on the ground and stepped on it.
“I mean, who doesn’t want something with their name engraved on it?”
“See?” Danny grinned smarmily at Johnny.
“Uhh, going back to work now. See you, Mags.” Johnny returned to the garage.
“See you, Johnny.”
“Sooo,” Danny took a step in Maggie’s direction. “Visiting Johnny?”
“Mostly visiting my mom, but Johnny happens to be here too.”
“Will you still be visiting tonight?”
“Well, if you’re around, come by to Charlie’s.”
“Maybe,” she looked appraisingly at Danny, “I’ll get your number from Johnny.”
“Alright then,” Shit, she was straightforward.
“See you around, Danny.” She walked around the car and got in. He walked toward the back door of the diner and watched the old Impala drive out of the cobbled alley. Danny wrenched open the back door to the kitchen and started to walk over the tiled floor.
“Daniel Boivin, what are you doing?!” That low, rumbling voice could only belong to Addie’s dad. It nearly shocked the hangover out of Danny.
“Sorry Mr. Dalca. You can call me Danny.” He didn’t like how Mr. Dalca said his name.
“I know you’re Addie’s friend, but look at you. You can’t come back here. It isn’t allowed. I could get in trouble.” He looked at him up and down. “Today’s not so bad, usually you’re covered in car grease though.”
“Sorry. I’ll just go,” Danny turned.
“No, no, no, just come out this way. You’re already in,” Addie’s dad just shook his head. “But this time and no more!”
Danny’s grinned, “Thanks!” He went on his way and walked up towards the curtain. The yellow fabric hung heavy on the rod, years of grease fumed from the kitchen and clung to it. He peered through and saw Addie standing there, looking down at something. He lunged forward and dug his index fingers into either side of her torso.
“Ahhhh!” She flailed and turned around, hitting him squarely in the side of his head with a paperback. Seeing it was him, “Uhhhh, God! It’s like we’re still five.”
“Lighten up and feed me,” he rounded the counter corner.
“Anything in particular?”
“Anything at all; I’m dying.”
“Eggs and bacon it is.”
“…And also home fries.” She wrote down an order and sent it back through the
window and into the kitchen, “What’d you end up doing?”
“Went to Charlie’s, then I went to a party with Jess. You should’ve come.”
“Couldn’t. I had my online course.”
“Oh,” he paused, “so why does that mean you couldn’t come over?”
“Because,” she said peering back behind the curtain and seeing eggs crackling away on the stove, “I’m usually down here during the daytime. I need my nights.”
“Bummer… My food almost ready?” The normally mischievous look that usually inhabited his face couldn’t mask physical pain.
“Fine by me.”
“So what else happened last night?”
“You know, just the usual.”
“So I’ll be asking Facebook then?” Addie pulled out her phone; she knew Danny was always up to something when he went out.
“Honestly, it was just the usual!” A grin returned to his face, “Give me that.” He swiped over the counter, but it was a feeble attempt.
“What are we hiding?” She had the app open and was flipping to Danny, sniggering the whole time.
“Ehhh,” he said and sat back, “I have nothing to hide!” His chin tilted up.
“Really?” She raised one eyebrow. “Sure you don’t want to hide Blondie?”
She let out a throaty noise in disgust. Every week, Danny made a new little friend. “You know, it’s just really sad.”
“When someone can’t afford an entire shirt.” She scrunched up her nose as she viewed the girl’s sequin-covered bandeau top.
He raised his eyebrows. “I certainly found nothing wrong with her top and I can’t help whose wall I end up on.”
“Yeah, you can.” Her nose stayed scrunched as she kept looking through his photos.
“If I were you, I’d spend some time de-tagging.”
“Yeah, one day you might actually meet someone when you’re sober and like them. Wouldn’t want them to see, well, you know… you,” she peered behind the curtain again. His breakfast was getting served up on a plate.
“Oooof, who bit you?”
She laughed, “No one! No one, here’s your food.” She grabbed the plate as it was placed in the window and brought it out to him.
“Thank God.” He looked down at his cure. “Fork?”
“Fork.” She pulled one out from under the counter and put it in front of him. Her mother caught her eye and nodded. “Okay. I’m done here now. Sam is up on my roof. Gonna go hang out up there for a while.”
“Oh yeah?” He shoveled eggs in his mouth.
“Yeah, he’s already going crazy at home with his folks.”
“Doesn’t seem to like it here much, does he?”
“Not really,” she shrugged and took her apron off. “If you want, come up.”
“Naw, I’m going home, need a shower.”
“Hah!” The usual. “ You’re so gross!” She started backing away.
“I’ll see you Addie.”
“Been a pleasure as always,” she turned to walk through the curtain. Immediately to the left of the doorway were stairs to the second level apartment. She had grown up in it with her parents, and still lived there today. The top door opened into a small living room to the right and even smaller kitchen to the left. She walked straight ahead, however. A narrow hallway led directly into a tiny bathroom with gold and green tile, an homage to the '70s and the last time anything had been updated. On either side of the hallway were two bedrooms. She turned left into the smaller one and kneeled down to peer under her twin bed. Anything she put in her kitchen automatically became community property, so it was safer to keep the beer under her bed. No matter how dusty.
Addie ignored her itching eyes and a slowly clogging nose and climbed up on the end of her bed, beers in tow. One foot went out her window and she crouched over to awkwardly scramble through and emerge on a rusting fire escape. Not for the faint of heart, the structural integrity of it was at best questionable. With a deep breath, she climbed the squeaking fire escape until she reached the summit.
“Hey!” She precariously balanced the beers on lip of the roof. “Grab those?”
Sam twisted his head around from the lawn chair he was reclining in. A cigarette hung from his lips. “Yeuh, sure.” He lumbered to her and picked them up off the roof’s edge.
“You need a hand?”
“Naw, I got it.” She sat on the edge, swinging one leg over, followed by the other.
“Thanks though.” Addie crossed the flat roof to the lawn chairs where Sam had been sitting and looked around. This was the better side to look at. The center of town was diagonally to the right; there was a little square green plot. Beyond that were houses followed by trees and fields. The opposite side, her side, gave a nice view of Henry’s garage, which usually just gave her a view of Johnny standing outside smoking.
“So, what’re you up to right now, anyway?” Addie looked down at the laptop sitting on the floor of the roof.
“Working.” He took a drag off the cigarette.
“It’s Saturday.” She sat down and reached for a beer.
“Noon?” He reclaimed his chair and looked at her beer.
“I’ve eaten two meals. There’s nothing wrong with noon. Why are you working?” She crossed her legs in the chair so that her skin wasn’t coming into contact with the bits of metal that poked through the worn cloth and threatened to burn her.
“I always work. Less on Saturdays and Sundays. But I’ve gotta be on top of things or it all slips.”
“Always?” That sounded pretty glum.
“Kind of always.” He cracked open the beer and took a sip. Describing this to Addie probably wouldn’t make sense to her anyway. “I like my work and it keeps me busy. Keeps me where I need to be, you know, lifestyle wise.”
“I like having my place to myself. But I need to work for that to happen. I don’t mind though.”
“So you just work a lot and then live in your place. Do you do anything else?”
“Yeah, I hang out with people and everything; I just don’t live with any. I like it that way though; hence, I don’t mind working so much.”
Addie looked skeptical, “Sounds sort of like you’re just living to work.” Her phone buzzed and she looked down. “That would be your sister.”
“Kate’s coming?” Sam looked down at the ash he was flicking off his cigarette. He had come up to Addie’s roof to get away from his father. He’d only been home a day, but he was already asking to have a word with him later. The weekend left him open to more exposure.
“Yeah, she’ll be up in a minute. So what’s special about being in the city and your place and stuff?”
“I mean,” Sam paused, not even sure if he knew himself, “I’m entertained constantly. There are people everywhere; I just don’t have to deal with them all.“
His head swiveled around, looking for a corner of the roof where he could snub out the remainder of his vice.
“Deal with them all?”
“Yeah, I just like my space.” He’d set his laptop on the ground and was making great strides to reach the lip on the opposite side of the roof.
“I mean, I guess that’s fair enough, s’pose every now and then I wish I had space,” she laughed. “I could even keep my beer in the fridge, imagine!”
“And where are you keeping it now?” He smashed the butt and flicked the rest overboard.
“Under my be-”
“Hey! Hey, you guys up there?” came Kate’s voice.
“I’m sorry - were you going to end that with ‘bed’? Feel free to finish this, Kate.” Sam yelled down to her.
Kate swung her leg over the lip on the roof. “Finish what?”
“If you say so.” She took it, shrugging.
“Uh, I can’t even allow you, as my sister, to continue drinking that. It’s from her bed. It’s bed beer.”
“Yeah, duh. All her beer is bed beer.”
“What’s wrong with my bed beer?” Addie piped up. “It isn’t like the dust is in the beer.”
“Yeah, “ added Kate, “and she can’t keep it anywhere else or Papa Dalca will drink it all.”
“Your dad drinks your beer?”
“Yes, he drinks her beer.”
Addie shrugged. “His apartment, his beer.”
“If you were married to her mom, you’d drink all the beer, too.”
“I’ll take your mom and raise you my dad,” Sam directed toward Addie.
“Oh yeah,” Kate turned, “Dad was looking for you. I don’t know why though.”
“Me neither.” Hopefully I can keep it that way.
“If you go talk to him, it’ll be over with.”
“Yeah, but I’m supposed to be here for almost a week. So I’d rather put the arguing off till later.”
“You don’t know you’re gonna argue,” said Addie.
“You don’t know we won’t,” he retorted. Most people’s parents would be satisfied if
their kids moved out, had a job and were fully autonomous. His insisted on giving a timeline comparison of where they were at Sam’s age. “I’m taking off now. Think I’m still in more of a coffee mode than a dusty beer one, anyway.”
“Fine,” Kate said. Sam was so uptight, “More dusty beer for me!”
Sam packed his laptop away and slung the bag over his shoulder. “I’ll see you later.”
“Because you’re heading home now to talk to Dad?”
“Funny. Oh, yeah, except that it’s not,” Sam sneered and angled his body over the
edge of the roof onto the fire escape. Kate watched as her brother disappeared downward.
“God, you would think we had the most difficult people ever for parents.”
“It seems like he wants his space.”
Kate took Sam’s vacant chair. “Addie, Sam could go on one of those Buddhist retreat things where they hang out in a cave for a year and don’t ever speak and that still wouldn’t be enough space for him.” She rested her head against the back of the chair and stared off in the distance. She wished Sam was less of a loner, and she knew her parents did too. “Anyway, what else is up?”
“Nothing really, Danny came in for his bi-weekly hangover breakfast, but that’s about it.”
“It’s bi-weekly now?”
Addie laughed, “Yeah, and that’s being conservative.”
“What was he even up to last night?”
“Oh, who knows, I didn’t go. Some party or something.”
“But it’s over.”
“Well yeah, I walked and whatever, but I still need three credits; I’m finishing online.”
“So you can do it whenever you want?”
“Yes you can, I’ve done them before.” She looked over at Addie. “Danny said you never go out anymore.”
“Yeah, because I work all day, so the only time to do them is at night… Kind of like last night.”
“I guess,” Kate figured she was just making excuses since there was hardly anything to
go out for around here anyway. “I feel like you need to get out of here.”
“Yeah, you and me both.”
“What are you going to do when you’re done though? For real done.”
“I don’t know, probably just keep working here, I mean, it’s my parents,’” she said, motioning downward to the building below.
The very thought of spending an eternity in this place was enough to bring Kate to tears, let alone actually having to face that reality. “There isn’t anything you’d rather do? You majored in English. There’s something you could do with that. Copywriting or something.”
Addie tilted her beer up and took a final swig from it, “You want me to be a copywriter? I don’t think they need those here.”
“Yeah, exactly! It’s your chance to escape!”
“Escape? I’ll give it to you that starting my day by chopping potatoes at 4 A.M. isn’t really my definition of fun, but escape seems like a little too much,” she laughed,
“you’re so dramatic.”
“No, I’m not!”
“Yeah, you are. It’s cool though; it’s why we all love you.” She cocked one mocking eyebrow up.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed with love right now.”
“I’m guessing you’re only saying this because of your impending escape?”
“Yeah, I suppose. You know, it would be better if I had someone to escape with.”
“You’re escaping with Sam. Is Sam not enough?”
“Sam is going to let me sleep on his couch and pester me to find my own place and a roommate as soon as possible.”
“How are you going to find a roommate?”
Addie recoiled, “I’ll see you at your funeral.”
Kate blew out a sigh that was part laugh. “Well, if you just wanted to come with me, then my imminent death wouldn’t be as much of a reality.”
“Yeah, but mine would, as my parents would kill me for leaving.”
Kate loved Addie and all, but this was one of the most ridiculous parts of her, “Oh my God! You need to get over that. They’re not going to kill you.”
“No, no, I don’t think so.”
“You’re out of it. They want me here forever, or until I get married or something.”
“Oh, really? How do they expect that to happen without you leaving the house?”
“Well now, that isn’t fair; I go downstairs to the diner, too.”
“I’ll figure it out eventually. Right now I need to just focus on finishing my class.”
Kate laughed at this and stood up, “Well then, you’d better get used to that idea since you’re finishing it soon. They’re short, aren’t they?'” She walked over to the edge of the roof and looked out over town.
“Yeah…” Addie’s voice broke Kate’s trance.
Kate looked around and returned to the area they had been sitting in. She drained the last of the beer. “Hey, I’ve got to go now.”
“That’s all? Where are you heading?”
“Yeah, sorry. I’m headed to Danny’s, just to hang out and catch up.” She replaced her empty bottle back in the case she’d taken it from. Addie grabbed another. “I’ll see you at my grad party tomorrow though, right?”
“Ok, cool.” Kate walked to the ladder side edge and swung her leg over. “See you later, Addie.”
Kate hated the creaky old fire escape they had to use to get up and down. It was probably a miracle none of them had fallen off it in high school when they used to sneak up there to drink. At least it was a miracle that Danny had never fallen off. She angled her body into Addie’s room and made her way back through the tiny apartment, successfully evading Mrs. Dalca, who was in the office, back turned. Kate was out the back door and standing in the worn cobblestone passageway. She turned to her right and walked towards the back end of the alley, and then crossed over into The Gulch. The farther back into the neighborhood she went, the crappier the rented out houses looked; siding stained with pollution and cracked driveway pavement. No one took care of it because it wasn’t really theirs. About ten more minutes of walking, and she arrived at her destination. Knocking wasn’t even necessary at Danny’s place, so she went in through the door on the right side of the porch.
“Hello?” She walked in the doorway and stood there. The bit of fading maroon carpet right in front of the door was muddy and discolored. “Danny!” She followed the deteriorating carpet and peered into the galley kitchen to the right, just an open pizza box with a few slices missing. Kate took a few more steps into his living room. The TV that sat against the wall to the right was on, but muted while a passed out Danny was asleep on the couch to the left. He looked pretty clean, which was actually shocking as he was still asleep late into the afternoon. Kate figured he must’ve actually gotten up that day, rather than just passed out from the previous night. There was glass with the tiniest bit of water left in it. She dipped her fingers and flicked water in his face, grinning.
He didn’t even flinch. She blew out a sigh and nudged his foot. With no response, she eventually gave him a straight kick in the foot. Danny jerked awake. “Uhhhhhh…” He looked up at Kate. “Why in the hell did you do that?” he mumbled.
“Because you sleep like a dead person. Your place could be on fire and you would probably just sleep through it.”
He stretched and yawned and grumbled and propped himself up. Kate went back in the kitchen and kicked her shoes off; they landed against the wall. “I’m taking your pizza.”
“On your counter?”
“Yeah, that’s cool, fridge pizza might be no good. Ethan left it in there last week and then he went away.”
“Where’d he go?” She opened the door to fridge and looked at the spare box sitting there. A shelf down sat a half empty bottle of Coke and some pickles.
“I dunno. He’s always in and out.”
“I’m throwing away your pizza.”
“Because you can’t eat it, and knowing you, one day you’ll come home in a drunken stupor and down the whole thing.”
“Ehhh, not important.”
She grabbed a piece of the fresh pie. “Guess I should just let you get sick and die.”
“Mmmm… nope. I’m probably going to outlive you all.”
“Your diet of pizza, coke, and pickles sounds like it would ensure that.”
Kate walked back over to where Danny sat and poked his feet. “Move,” she picked up his feet, forcing him to bend at the knees. “I’m always impressed how much space you manage to take up.” He was always just everywhere, not that he was particularly large. Danny had a generally compact build, though a small keg threatened to take the place of a six-pack.
“Yeah, it’s my talent.”
“What’re we watching?” She stared at the soundless TV.
“What?” He looked over at the screen, “Oh, I dunno what this is,” he turned the sound back on, “…was Braveheart or something when I fell asleep.”
A grizzly Jack Nicolson and some other guy stood over two bodies. “She fell funny,” flashed in subtitles across the screen.
“Who knows?” Kate sat back as a plane took off over the seedy-looking characters on screen. “What’d you get up to last night, anyway?”
“Nothing interesting,” Danny said as he distractedly flicked the menu onto the screen.
“The Departed. That works.” He flicked it back. “Yeah, nothing interesting, was just around town. You should have come out.”
Kate knew he meant Charlie’s, and potentially worse, Jessica; she was less interested.
“Well, Sam came home, so I couldn’t really.”
He shrugged, “Fair enough.”
“Anybody good go out?” She looked over at him.
Danny caught her eye, “Actually, did you know Johnny had a sister?”
“Johnny. Garage Johnny?”
“Yeah, he’s got a sister.”
“Who you hung out with last night?” Curiosity laced through her words.
“Oh… Then your point would be what?”
“She’s hot and she came by the garage when I was grabbing my paycheck.”
“A hot girl was at the garage when you grabbed your paycheck. Great story.”
“Yeah, but we’re gonna go out.”
“So you asked her?”
“No, I’ll text her later, but we’ll go out.”
Kate never bothered to stifle eye rolls when she was near Danny. “Obvious flaws in that plan aside, you know you can’t just date someone like Johnny’s sister.”
“Yeah, I can. Why can’t I?”
“Because when you mess it up, you still have to see her brother every day.”
“Well, he isn’t some weird mobby dude who’s gonna beat my ass.” He grabbed at the piece of pizza she hadn’t touched on her plate. “And I’m not gonna screw it up.”
“I’ve seen you screw up easier things than this.”
“Shut up.” He pulled the pillow out from under his head and threw it at her.
Kate deflected the pillow and felt something under her vibrate. “What is that?”
“What, do you have weird vibrating things hidden everywhere or something?”
“Weird vibrating things?”
“Seems like something that you’d do,” Kate mumbled as she shifted around, looking for the source of the vibration. Her hands reached a phone. “Ha, here we are!” She threw the phone at him.
Danny caught it as it was careening towards his chest. “Spaz,” she watched him read and scroll. “Some people are going to come over before we head down to Charlie’s. You’re coming to Charlie’s, right?”
“Yeah, maybe.” No, definitely not. Charlie’s wasn’t her scene. Maybe in college when she’d first turned 21. But the pre-med program had taken its toll on her social life, and she’d quickly fallen out of the loop with Danny in that regard.
Danny didn’t look surprised at her response and merely shrugged. He typed something back, “They aren’t coming over for a while.”
“OK, cool.” She leaned back into the soggy foam of the decaying couch and they both stared at the TV. As time wore on and they made their way through more channels and pizza, Kate was finally settling in; it felt more like high school again, except they didn’t have to sneak the beer. They laughed for a while and watched TV, brought up something else and then promptly forgot what they’d been talking about in the first place because, really, nothing was ever that heavy.
He told her about working at the garage, what other people who hung back after high school were up to, and even Jessica, at which point Kate had to try and not grimace. She shared some horror stories from living in a dorm, tried to tell him that if he wanted to date Maggie properly he needed to invite her to coffee, not a bar, and eventually landed on how tomorrow, she had to deal with her pain in the ass graduation party. “I don’t even want to have this. My parents just felt like having an excuse to have a bunch of old family members over. School isn’t even over for me yet. I don’t feel like I’ve graduated anything; I feel like it’s just a long line of school punctuated by a stupid ceremony.”
She looked over at Danny, who just nodded. “Well, at least you get to go live in the city after this, right? I mean, I bet you could definitely get into some trouble around there,” he said with a grin.
“I suppose so.” A knock at the door interrupted her. It swung open and in trucked two guys who hovered around six feet. Their hair was buzzed into a fade, though the blonder of them had it concealed beneath a Patriots hat. They were dressed almost as though they were wearing uniforms of work boots, faded old jeans, and comfortably worn-in hoodies. She recognized them from high school. Tim and Garret were their names; they were a year or two above her and Danny.
“What’s up?” Danny hollered louder than he needed to.
“Nothing, Danny, what’s going on here?” Garret asked, looking at Kate.
Danny motioned to her, “This is Kate, she went to high school with us.”
Tim cocked his head, squinting slightly, “Yeah, felt like I’d seen you around.”
She looked at Tim and smiled, “Probably, I’ve only lived here my whole life.”
“Yeah,” added Danny, “I’ve known this one since we were six, until she left us to go to college.”
“So I’ve got all the good Danny stories.”
“Oh, yeah?” Garrett looked her way as well, since the suggestion of college had piqued his interest. “I used to head out to the school down the road a-ways back. Had a friend who went there, some sick parties.”
They were nice, but they were meatheads. Kate was starting to feel like leaving before they even shoved off to go to Charlie’s. She tried to go with it though, and laughed it off awkwardly, “Definitely miss those. It’s just back here for now.” Tim had grabbed a seat while Garrett set a backpack down on the floor. He pulled out some cans of Bud Light and threw one to each of them.
“Well, there are worse places to be for sure.”
Kate wasn’t sure she could think of one at the moment. The channel had landed on a ball game and Danny sat upright. “So what’re we doing?” He cracked the beer open and took a long slurp off it.
“I’m good with this for now, man.”
Kate tolerated the baseball for as long as she could. But as the sun was starting to hang lower in the sky, casting shadows through the glass slider door, Danny suggested some Beirut before they headed out and Kate voiced that she might head out.
“Come on Kate, don’t be a tit. I know you’re gonna head out before we go to Charlie’s, but play with us till Ben comes over. I need a partner.” He curled his lower lip.
“Fine,” she had drunk a few beers herself at that point. “But only because you’re my oldest friend, and you’re doing that stupid lip trick, and also, you’re drinking all the beer for me.”
“I mean I guess if I have to...”
The rounds continued, beer was drunk, laughter erupted, and Ben showed up. She remembered him pretty clearly from school, he had been a year above them with Garrett and Tim. It was too bad he’d left Ballardvale only to return to it, but his arrival signaled her departure. She felt pleased to be met with some mild resistance from the three guys there, but she knew it was perfunctory, gave them a hug goodbye, and stepped out of Danny’s apartment. She didn’t have a long walk home, but she set off at a speedier pace than normal so that she could make it before the twilight darkened into night. She retraced her steps back through the gulch to the cobbled alleyway. She had only about a mile of walking to go, and thirty minutes later she was back at her house and walking through the front door.
“Hey, where’d you go all day?” Her mom looked up from a book. She was sitting in an oversized armchair that faced the muted television.
“Just around town. I was visiting Addie and Danny and stuff.”
“That’s nice. Did you have a good time?”
“Yeah,” Kate wasn’t feeling chatty.
“Do you know what Sam’s been up to all this time?”
Kate shrugged and resisted the urge to roll her eyes, “Beats me; he was probably working.”
“…because I feel like I’ve barely seen him since he’s been home.”
“Well, you know Sam.”
“I mean I’ve been calling him.”
“That’s probably not the best way to catch him.” But it was probably the best way to annoy him.
“Well, Dad’s been wanting to chat with him. It’s nearly impossible to get him to stick around long enough to exchange anything more than pleasantries.” Her mother’s eyebrows contracted, supporting physical evidence of her frustration.
“Chat?” And therein lay the issue. No one ever wanted to be on the receiving end of a chat with their father. It wasn’t a chat; it was a lecture.
“Yes, but don’t worry about that.” She rubbed the middle of her forehead as if to smooth out the wrinkles. “You’re going to help us clean up and set up for your party tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah, of course.”
Her mom smiled at her, “Good.”
“I’m going to head upstairs.” She walked forward and climbed a few steps.
“Yep!” she called down, quickening her pace.
“Aren’t you hungry?“
“No, I’m good!” she yelled back down. She reached the top and went to Sam’s room to see if he was in there, but the room was barren and empty looking; just a hastily made bed along with a semi open duffel bag that contained his clothes. He must’ve still been hiding out downtown.
She returned to her room, and rather than packing any of her junk up, pulled out her yearbook and flipped through it. There were pictures of her and Addie, her and Danny, and a defunct superlative section. Best eyes, best hair, the guy voted most likely to succeed was doing well and