Grace watched Owen and Harper disappear in a red stream of tail lights and sighed. Looking down at Lucky, serenely sleeping it off in the middle of the path, she wondered how she was going to get him to her car. Crouching down, she studied him. There was absolutely no way she could leverage him up by herself. She needed help.
Looking over her shoulder, she took in the motley crew that seemed to gravitate to the water tower during the winter months. It was a local hangout for both Briarcliff and Ridgefield students, as noted by the Varsity jackets in evidence from both schools.
Kids were clustered around the blaze for warmth. Some sitting on logs that circled the area, while others were installed in worn out beach chairs, confiscated for their portability, coolers and beer cans making an appearance at each gathering.
Catching sight of Adam Leeland, she felt some of the tension leaving her shoulders. Adam was a friend from school that played football. Better still, he didn’t drink. Pulling her phone from her bag, she pulled his name up from her contacts list and hit the call button.
He looked at the display and smiled before he put the phone to his ear. “Yo, Gracie. Whas’up?”
“Adam. Man, am I glad to see you. Can you head up the path? I have a friend who is passed out, and I need some help getting him to my car.” Adam’s head whip around when he realized where she was calling from.
Catching sight, he smiled and held up a hand. “No prob, give me a sec and I’ll be right there.”
From her vantage point, Grace watched as he pocketed his phone and moved across the fire to a point on the other side she couldn’t see. In no time, Adam re-emerged with his brother Aaron, who had graduated the previous year from Briarcliff.
Relieved, she felt her shoulders relax, until she saw who was on Aaron’s heels.
“Oh, man!” she groaned. Looking up into the inky blackness dusted with stars, she demanded, “Really?”
Truman took the lead and made his way up the worn path. He had been looking for Grace and only stopped at the bonfire as a last resort.
Eye contact was all she was going to concede. Rolling right past Truman, she smiled, “Adam. Aaron. Thanks guys. I need some help getting him to my car.”
Aaron rubbed his first finger across his brow and smiled, “Sure, kid. Missed seeing you at the party last night. I was sure you and Truman were going to stop by.”
Patting Aaron on the arm, Grace grinned, sarcasm dripping from every word, “Because Truman said so? Come on, Aaron. You know Truman doesn’t always tell the truth.”
The two brothers looked over at Truman for direction. With none forthcoming, Adam said, “Here, give me your keys, and we can get him up to the car.”
Adam and Aaron grabbed Lucky on either side and hoisted him up. The Leeland brothers were broad but neither as tall as Lucky. While his weight was minimal, his length made it awkward to maneuver him toward the car. With his head hanging forward and feet dragging, Grace found something to smile about as she watched them drag-pull Lucky toward Frenchy.
Shaking her head, she started to follow, only to be stopped short by Truman’s hand on her arm. “You going to keep avoiding me?”
A beat of silence, then, “Sure, let’s go with that.”
Frustration riding each word, Truman said, “Come on, at least give me a chance to explain.”
Turning, Grace faced Truman across the path. In the moonlight, her face was highlighted and eerily calm. It was her eyes that were a mass of swirling storms and confusion. “Okay, Tru. Answer me this. Why even bother with the whole of idea of going out? What was the point?”
His face softening, Tru moved toward her, “I wasn’t trying to make a point. I just knew when I saw you the other night that I wanted to spend some time with you. I really missed you. And I didn’t expect to. I thought it would be a good idea for us to see where it went.”
“Yeah? What’s your girlfriend think about that? You know the one at school. Sara.” Grace grated through a haze of humiliation. “Your phone rang at least ten times this morning. But don’t worry. When I did finally answer it, she just assumed I was your sister Haley-who she’s heard so much about and can’t wait to meet-that Haley. Seriously? Haley sounds nothing like Harper, by the way. Looks like you went and found yourself a rocket science major after all.”
“Technically, she’s not my girlfriend.”
“That’s your explanation?” Shaking her head, she continued, “I don’t think she would agree with you. Especially since she introduced herself that way.” Grace raised her voice and mimicked, “Hi this is Sara, Truman’s girlfriend. I am sure he has told you all about me.” Pivoting, she started up the trail to her car where she could see Lucky being unceremoniously dumped into the passenger seat. “I wonder what she would have thought if I told her who I was. Hey, no, this isn’t Harper.” She snorted over the name. “This is Grace. I‘m the girl your boyfriend spent most of last night with. How would that have gone over?”
In a quick dart around Grace, Truman repositioned himself with his face reflected in the moonlight. Grabbing both her hands he said, “Listen, yeah, I was seeing Sara. Will I see her again when I go back? I don’t know. That’s for after the holidays. After I saw you the other night I just wanted... I just wanted…”
“What Truman? What did you want? To be able to come home and hook up with girls like me and Kimmy Hendershott?
“The Kimmy thing happened before I saw you again. It was a random hook-up at a party, and I just told you…” Taking a deep breath, Truman turned toward the sound of Aaron and Adam making their way back down the path. “What’s the use? You’ve already decided.”
Passing Grace her keys, Adam said, “We got him in the car, just hope he doesn’t ralph all over your floors.”
“Thanks guys,” she said on a small smile. “I should get him home.”
Aaron took the hint before Adam did and made his farewells before dragging his brother back toward the bonfire.
“Are we done here?” Truman’s body visibly vibrated in his anger.
Closing her eyes and licking her lips, Grace nodded.
Truman hesitated for a moment before turning and making his way back toward the party. Opening her eyes, Grace watched him go through a gaze blurred by un-shed tears. She could just see how tonight’s diary entry was going to start, “It was at the party…”