The Saints

Page 28

“Well, what’s there to say?” Raunch said with an awkward shrug.

Lucy didn’t answer. It was awful, but true. There was only so much to talk about with Maxine before you started thinking about the elephant in the room, that one way or the other, she had a terrifying ordeal ahead of her. It was what had kept Lucy, Sophia, and Raunch standing in awkward silence for the last thirty seconds.

“Hey, why don’t you come out with us tonight,” Sophia said.

“Really?” Lucy said.

An invitation to hang with Sophia was seriously flattering.

“We’re going to this,” Raunch said.

Raunch unfurled a single-page, black and white flyer that prominently featured a photocopied hand giving a thumbs-up and cut-up magazine lettering like a ransom note. It read: YOU’RE INVITED TO WILL AND GATES’S PIZZA PARTY.

Her mind flashed back to seeing Will in the market making out with one girl after another. Gross. Maybe it shouldn’t have bothered her as much as it did. Maybe she didn’t have the right to be offended that Will was getting so much female attention, but she was, and she certainly didn’t want to revisit those feelings tonight.

“Oh …,” Lucy said. “I don’t think so.”

“What do you mean you don’t think so?” Sophia said.

“They’ve been hyping it up like crazy,” Raunch said. “It’s gonna put every Geek show to shame. I’m freaking out, I can’t wait.”

“I’m sure it’s going to be great,” Lucy said. “But I can’t … Will and I, we didn’t leave on the best of terms.”

“Were you dating or something?” Raunch said.

“No … I just don’t think I’m ready to talk to him yet,” Lucy said.

“Sounds like you were dating.”

“No, we were … Ugh. He’s hooking up with girls all over the market. I can’t just go to his mega-party without a date, or I’ll look like a loser.”

“So we’ll find you a date,” Sophia said.

“If you could have any boy in school, who would it be?” Raunch said.

Lucy grinned. There was one boy. She’d seen him in the market a couple times recently. He was a Nerd. He had perfect teeth, and a really infectious laugh that always made Lucy smile.

“I don’t know his name,” Lucy said. “But he’s friends with that Nerd, Peter, you sometimes hook up with.”

“Which one?” Raunch said, getting excited. “What’s he look like?”

“The one with the big hair, slicked back.”

“Ooo, I know who you’re talking about.” Raunch clapped. “I’m on it.”

Sophia smiled a wicked smile. “Tonight might be your night, Virgin.”

Lucy opened the cafeteria door a crack, and peered out at the crowd of boys waiting outside the cafeteria for their Slut dates. It was a smattering of Freaks, a bunch of Skaters, two Geeks, and a Varsity who had a bad habit of letting his mouth hang open. Raunch was there too. She came walking up to the door, and slipped into the cafeteria.

“So, Peter said his friend’s got the hots for a certain Slut we know,” Raunch said.

“Me?” Lucy said. Her stomach fluttered.

“No, Maxine,” Raunch said, then shook her head. “Yes, you, dummy.”

“Sounds like love at first sight to me,” Sophia said.

“His name is Bart,” Raunch said.

“Bart?” Lucy said. She gave Raunch a skeptical look. “Really?”

“Oh, Virgin’s getting picky now?” Sophia said.

“I still have self-respect,” Lucy said, which made Sophia laugh.

“Whatever, I heard he’s huge,” Raunch said. “Lips said one of her friends saw it. She said it looked like a big snake, like it could eat hamsters.”

“Well, when you put it that way …,” Lucy said. What Raunch was describing sounded like a horror movie.

“Hey, if you’re not biting, I will,” Raunch said. “Big bites.”

Raunch laughed and elbowed Lucy. Suddenly, Lucy was nervous. The boy she thought was cute dug her. Did that mean she was going to hook up tonight?

“Quick, get wet. Here we go,” Raunch said, as she pushed the doors all the way open and they walked into the hallway.

“Why are you so gross?” Lucy said, laughing. Raunch flexed her pelvis with three quick pumps and gave Lucy an exaggerated growl. Lucy laughed harder, and it made her butterflies feel a little better.

Lucy spotted Bart. He was smiling softly. At her. He had slicked his black hair back in a pompadour. A homemade skinny tie hung from his collar. He’d put on a tie for their date. She liked that.

“Make him work,” Sophia whispered in Lucy’s ear, then pushed off to meet her date. Lucy made sure not to trip as she walked up to him.

“Ding-dong, I’m Bart. What’s your name?” he said and held out his hand for a shake.

Lucy looked down the lineup, praying that no Sluts had heard him and were about to scream out Virgin! None of them did, although Raunch pointed to his crotch and gave her a thumbs-up.

“Lucy,” she whispered.

“Bartholomew,” he whispered back.

“Oh, I like that better.”

“I knew you would. Girls always like it better. I like Bart. It’s kinda tough.”

“It sounds like Barf.”

“Hey-yo,” he said and smiled with his perfect teeth.

“Hey-yo? Ding-dong? Who are you?”

He arched one eyebrow. “Don’t blame me ’cause I talk cool.”

All things considered, Lucy felt like this was actually the most normal interaction she’d had in months. She felt like a regular girl, flirting with a boy.

Bart nodded. “You want to wear my skate and I’ll push you?”

Bart had a single roller skate hanging from his belt loop on his hip. He untied the roller skate with one pull of the lace. He handed Lucy the cream-colored, leather skate. On it, he’d drawn a miniature scene in blue ballpoint pen of an epic raging battle in the quad. A cartoon version of Bart soared over all of it wearing a single roller skate, while carrying a buxom girl in one arm and a blasting machine gun in the other. The girl held flowers and a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Lucy liked that he was a guy who even bought girls nice things in his drawings.

“You’ll have fun, don’t worry,” he said.

Lucy gave Bart a look, then twisted off her boot and pushed it into Bart’s hands.

“Carry this,” she said.

He smiled as he tied her boot to his belt loop. Lucy dropped the skate to the floor and fitted her foot in. It was loose on her foot. Without asking, Bart knelt down and laced it up tight for her. It was kinda hot.

He stood and took her fingers in his. It was to help Lucy keep her balance, but to her, it felt like a gentleman helping her into a carriage. It made her smile.

“Bartholomew. Push.”

She lifted her skate-less foot, turned away from him right after saying it, like there would be no discussion of the matter. But away from his view, she was trying not to laugh.

“Unbelievable,” he said, but he still pushed.

They went slowly down the hall, away from the cafeteria, and Lucy was wobbly. Her one foot still slipped around inside the oversized skate. She stuck her arms out like wings. Whenever she’d start to tilt too far to one side, his hands were there to stabilize her. He walked beside her, pushing her when she needed it. They wove their way down the halls. She loved the sound of his laugh. The more he laughed, the more she found herself laughing with him.

“You’re cool,” Bart said in her ear, as he pushed her into the quad.

Lucy didn’t answer. She was transfixed by the spectacle in front of her. In the center of the quad’s dirt lawn was the biggest bonfire Lucy had ever seen. It was bright and churning and tall. Like a giant Christmas tree set ablaze. All around the bonfire was what had to be the full roster of every gang partying their faces off together.


BOOZE WAS EVERYWHERE. IN THE TURBULENT glow of the bonfire, Lucy saw countless orange faces with ink black shadows, glugging it, pouring it, swaying from it. Falling, vomiting, and cheering. This was the real stuff. Not some homemade swill that tasted like gasoline and Pez. Beer in cans and bottles, wine, wine coolers, liquor, goofy alcoholic lemonades, the works.

The whole thing was a wonder, and Lucy, for one, was speechless. Bart returned to her, holding up a bottle of vanilla vodka. The skate dangled from his hip.

“I got this for you,” he said, and placed it in her hand.

The cool glass felt great in her hot palm. Lucy lifted it and took a big sip. It tasted wonderful. Pure vanilla sugar. A swarm of kids with lit sparklers ran past. She saw a lot of groping in her peripheral vision. The burn of the alcohol rolled down her throat, and then bloomed in her belly.

“Come on …,” he said. “Let’s find Peter and your friend.”

Lucy nodded with a smile, then took Bart’s hand. They pushed through the crowd, past a slip ’n’ slide made out of a greased-down roll of black trash bags. Slippery, shirtless people slid across it and crashed into a kiddie pool. There was a line of twenty or so microwaves, each on its own desk along the north wall, and they were all plugged into extension cords running into classroom windows. Kids would grab individual-sized, thawed-out, frozen pizzas from coolers nearby and cook them up, before moving on to hang with their gangs.

Lucy and Bart walked past a slurry of music made by the cell phones of stumbling, slow-dancing couples. Over the course of a few strides, they went from hearing Top 40 to country to R&B to metal. Beyond the couples, there were jam circles. Kids played new guitars and bongos and other instruments, while others lay on the ground, wrapped in blankets, and listened. It seemed like every sixth person was hooking up with the seventh. There was a circle of dudes standing around telling jokes. Lucy watched a girl eat chocolate espresso beans by the handful and then do a drum solo on her boyfriend’s back. A group of laughing Freaks chucked batteries at each other, and in the fire’s light it looked like they were throwing fireflies. She heard the faraway sound of a girl puking, and then the comforting words of her girlfriends. Footballs flew through the air. Frisbees too.

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