Hazy Days and Cloudy NightsHow It All Got Started 004: Alex
Monday, June 18, 1984
Alex looked across the porch. Mike Dante wore an open smile. Cold warning danced in his eyes.
Alex had a habit of reacting to such things by pushing back with unexpected behavior. He went for it.
“You,” he said to Angel. “We were talking about you.”
“Really?” Angel set the tray on the porch. She bent down and handed Alex a glass of iced tea. “Should I be flattered?”
Alex found it difficult to meet her big, dark brown eyes. “Yeah. Probably, I guess.” He took the glass and saw her smirk.
“Probably?” She pivoted and bent at the knees to get Mike’s glass and her own. Alex caught himself checking out her narrow hips. He focused on his drink.
Angel turned to Mike. “What about it, Mike?”
Mike took his iced tea. “Thank you, Angel.” He shot his flat smile at Alex. “I think maybe Albert doesn’t think I’m good enough for you.”
Alex didn’t have a chance to correct the fucker’s deliberate mangling of his name. Angel turned at looked at him, one eyebrow raised, a hand on her waist.
“You don’t say.”
“That’s not what I –”
“Uh huh.” Angel’s expression didn’t change. She nodded slightly.
“I said we look out for each other.” Alex shrugged. “Like friends do.”
Angel sat down on the swing next to Mike and said to him, “Alex is my best friend.” Alex felt a rush of validation and an out-of-nowhere, stomach-clenching rush of alien hope that was as surprising as it was embarrassing. “He does look out for me.”
Alex raised his glass in a little salute. He quickly moved the glass to his mouth to cover the fact that his lips were quivering. It was a nervous reaction that had plagued him since childhood. He hated it.
“I guess you can’t knock a guy for that,” Mike said.
Mouth tight and under control, Alex lowered his glass and took in the two of them.
As expected, Mike managed to get his arm on the back of the swing, not touching Angel, but claiming her just the same.
Angel’s body twisted just slightly toward him. Her right knee touched his left leg. She didn’t pull away.
That about did it.
Alex took another quick sip of his tea, sat the glass back on the tray, and stood up.
“Well, I guess I should get going,” he said in a rush. “Long ride back.”
Angel’s “Oh, you have to?” felt automatic.
Before Alex could answer, Mike casually raised his hand behind Angel. “Later, ‘gator.”
“Yeah, I have to,” Alex said to Angel. “You’ve got company.” He was already off the porch and getting on his bike. “Call me later if you want, if you feel like it.”
“Totally,” she said.
Alex got off that yard and down that street and out of Angel’s neighborhood as fast as he could without it looking like running away.
Stupid waste of time.
Alex was the guy the girls confided in. He was not the one they wanted to doing anything with, not unless they were so damn needy and screwed up that being with him was a by-product of his taking care of their problems.
That had sure as hell been the story with Eve, his girlfriend from his sophomore year right up to the beginning of this year.
His role had been to keep her comforted and confident and as close to sane as her fucked up brain chemistry would allow. The many times they briefly broke up, she quickly found someone hotter than him to throw in his face until she came back around… and he always, always took her back.
Alex was pretty sure he’d still be running that maze if her parents hadn’t moved her across the country.
Angel had been his shoulder through that whole mess, and he had been there for her own various soap operas. To think they were supposed to be anything else… could be anything else…
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