The second part of my original fiction work. If you enjoy it, I’d appreciate you giving a look to my novel funding campaign for Steel in the Blood, publishing in December!
He waited until who was riding with who came up, counting seats. He stood next to Duncan, who had rebuilt the hulking black pickup they stood beside with his dad earlier that summer. Duncan’s girlfriend was Cathy Ringwald, who was best friends with Nancy’s friend Karen, and seeing as how they had all rode together David figured if stood with Duncan he’d probably be in the right car. The other cars departed, then finally they were getting in. Jackpot. David’s awkward smile to Nancy was accompanied by a quick glance and then eyes down. She returned it, then buckled the seatbelt, her eyes forward. David’s whole body felt electric, sitting as close to the door as he could so Nancy didn’t think he was crowding her. As they drove, the conversation turned to Halloween; costumes and a party and the school dance and who was going with who. David followed along, slowly relaxing until he felt his knees brush against Nancy’s there in the dark of the back seat. He froze, and while she didn’t immediately pull away, she didn’t exactly lean in either. What did that mean? Did she want him to move his leg? Which direction though? Did she even notice? The pickup barreled on, the road more and more twisty as the approached the neighboring town. Finally, the three in the back were shoulder to shoulder as Duncan’s pickup swayed at each turn, alternately pressed right then left and right again. It became a game, seeing who was going to smash who against the door the hardest. David didn’t push too hard at first, afraid of hurting the object of his affections. She had no such compunctions, and at the first opportunity attempted to flatten him bodily against the door, the breath leaving his lungs as much with surprise at her ferocity as with the force of her gesture. He laughed and grinned towards her, her eyes forward but her broad smile and laughter art to his eyes and music to his ears. They continued the game until finally, Duncan hammered on the brakes, throwing them all against their seatbelts, laughing and swearing and giddy with happiness and hormones.
It seemed an instant and they were parked, the tiny speaker and wire clamped to Duncan’s door as the previews played. David checked his phone to see when it would start, but was greeted with only the small unhappy cloud of disconnected service. He asked the car and someone mentioned eight o’clock. He glanced down at his watch, hoping it was soon. Still fifteen minutes to go. He slipped his phone back into his pocket, turning his attention back to the conversation. As soon as one of the girls mentioned the time-honored tradition of popcorn and movies he knew he might as well get it over with. The last thing he wanted to do was leave the warm car, the heady scent of Nancy’s perfume and the heat of where their bodies pressed together, but it was going to be him. Girls don’t pay and Duncan drove, so the math was pretty clearcut. Telling no one in particular he was happy to come back with a few buckets, he popped open the door and was slapped with the bracing October night. He shut the door gently, noting the parking spot next to the light. It would be easy to find again; a gleaming 1957 Chevy Bel Aire convertible was beside them, glowing a dull seafoam green in the pool of light coming off the pole. The chrome trim seemed molten, quicksilver. The car was pretty rare around these parts, even more so in what looked like perfect condition. Guess they let it out of the garage every once in a while. No one in Pleasant could afford to buy a classic like that so it probably belonged to one of the old folks. Maybe someone’s dad had been in a giving mood that night.
He walked back through the lot between the cars and pickups, towards the concession stand, the smell of butter and popcorn pulling him in with an invisible and inevitable hook. He arrived at the kiosk and was surprised to find only two other people; the concession stand was manned only by a small sign that read Be Back Real Soon, just to the left of several bags of freshly filled popcorn sitting idly on the countertop. David looked to the other two on his side of the counter. The boy wore a white shirt and jeans with polished black shoes, a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve. David assumed the girl with him was his date, as she was dressed to match, poodle skirt and cardigan. The spoke to each other in low tones, the girl’s hand resting lightly on the boy’s chest. David pulled his phone from his pocket, the large X at the top corner showing him still out of signal. Finally the two grew impatient and helped themselves to a bag of popcorn. The boy looked over the edge of the counter, presumably for a tip jar, but finding nothing turned and took the girl’s arm to go. David’s eyes met with the other boy’s as they both turned by him.
“That your Bel Aire over there?” David asked him, and the boy nodded back.
“Pretty sweet, huh?” He gestured with the popcorn bag to the girl, and she removed a kernel and threw it into the air, moving her mouth under it a little too slow as it bounced off her cheek and onto the ground.
“I like your costumes too,” David said, chin lifting slightly.
The boy raised an eyebrow at him skeptically and laughed as he and the girl brushed by. “Yeah, ok. You too.” The girl tittered and slapped his chest. She smiled at David, conciliatory.
“Better get back, movie’s about to start.” David frowned, turning back to his popcorn on the counter.
He waited a few more minutes, but no attendant returned to preside over the popcorn. Shrugging to himself, he walked up to the counter and the remaining brightly colored bags. He picked up two of them and made his way back to the pickup, weaving past the parked cars and the Bel Aire. He tapped on the glass and Nancy opened the door for him, his hands encumbered by popcorn. He climbed back up, and the five waited in the pickup, passing the bags of salt and crunch back and forth. David hadn’t realized popcorn could be that good. It nearly melted in his mouth, buttery and salty and the crunch loud in his head but fading quickly. They talked, the bravado of the boys crashing across the girls who maintained carefully un-impressed faces at every boast. David joined in half-heartedly, trying to recapture something of the easily flowing companionship of the drive down. His awkwardness and racing pulse seemed to evaporate with each bite of the popcorn. Eventually they found themselves all laughing and joking once again in the night, the air now sharper with chill. They rolled the windows up. Nancy moved over slightly, and David stretched his arms up to the roof, casually dropping one across the top of the seats. Nancy said nothing, but shifted slightly to lean back into him. His heart nearly stopped, and he realized he had stopped breathing; he forced his chest to rise again calm and steady, his eyes fixed on the screen showing a woman in a poodle skirt removing a roasting pan from the oven. The image didn’t even register; Nancy was leaning into him and he had his arm around her and the movie was going to start soon. David thought this moment was perfect, Nancy was perfect; he closed his eyes and breathed in, the smell of her hair and the warmth of her body against his and her leg pressed up against his thigh and all the little things, trying to implant this memory indelibly, every nook and cranny and nuance of it. He found himself holding his breath again, his body electric with the wish that the moment could last forever.