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How It All Got Started 037: Alex

Saturday, June 23, 1984

Alex changed out of his date clothes—it didn’t seem right to meet Angel wearing the clothes Heather had taken off of him earlier that night—and put on jeans and a black tee shirt. Since it was a little cold, at least compared to being inside, he threw a flannel shift, unbuttoned, over the tee to serve as a jacket.

He chose his black Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars high-tops for shoes and pegged the hems of his jeans tight at his ankles.

That was more like it. More Angel-appropriate.

Rather than risk Angel’s arrival waking his parents, Alex waited for her in the driveway. He leaned against the 1973 Ford Pinto Wagon that was to be his so-called reward for reaching eighteen years of age next Friday and reflected that, soon, he wouldn’t be waiting for girls to ferry him from place to place.

No, sir. He would come to them. Free. Mobile.

He chuckled to himself. What a treat for them to be chauffeured around in his crappy old Pinto.

Or… maybe not “them.” Maybe just… Angel?

The quiet laugh turned into a yawn. It was around one fifteen or so, he reckoned. Maybe they could go to Sperry’s, over by Pinnacle Records, and get some coffee.

But didn’t he want to be alone with Angel?

Alex wished he’d had the time to shower.

But then it might have been too late to call her, or too late for her to come over, or…

“Dude, chill out,” he whispered. Worrying about whether or not Angel would notice the stink of sex on his dick was a pretty clear case of getting ahead of himself. That wasn’t what this was about tonight.

He didn’t even know if she liked him like that. She was so vague on the phone.

Headlights gleamed.

And here she was.

Alex walked down to the curb, opened the passenger door of Angel’s Plymouth Arrow, and slipped in. It was almost like any of the scores of other times Angel had come around to hang out.

Except it so wasn’t.

“Hey.” She smiled at him, then quickly turned her attention to pulling away from the curb and driving.

“Hey.”

He looked at her. Even under the pale light of the dashboard, he could see she had makeup on. Did that mean something? Had she even done it for him? Maybe it was left over from earlier?

Her shoulder-length brown hair was tied back. She wore a white button-down shirt tucked into blue jeans. Alex tried not to focus on the way the seatbelt cut across, and between, her breasts.

“You look nice,” he said.

“Ch!” She rolled her eyes, but he glimpsed a quick smile before she had a chance to lock it down. “Another sign something’s up with you. When have you ever told me that?”

“I bet I have before.”

Her way of half-addressing things had the proverbial elephant in the room stomping all over his stomach. He tried to pretend they were just shooting the breeze.

“What about that one time you showed up at school wearing a dress. I don’t even remember why. But I said something about it!”

“Oh, yeah. Lemme think about that… I think the quote was, ‘why are you all dolled up?'”

“In my defense, a dress is totally out of character for you.”

“At school, maybe.”

Alex laughed. “I’ve known you for, like, three years, and we’ve hung out, gone to the mall, or whatever, five thousand times, and I’ve probably seen you wear a dress exactly once.”

“So you’ve been keeping track?”

In the Angel and Alex universe where they had lived a few weeks ago, he would have said, “Oh, you wish,” and laughed it off.

Tonight, his response was to squeak, “Not even!”

Alex wished he could take it back, but Angel seemed pleased with herself. “Uh huh.” She grinned.

“Well, anyway,” Alex said, “You looked nice in that dress. You look nice tonight. So, there.”

“Thank you.”

She didn’t do anything to hide the smile that time. Alex sat back in his seat and enjoyed one of his own.

“You’re welcome. Where do you want to go?”

“It’s late… how about we just go to the bridge?”

“That’ll work.”

Alex thought it would do better than work.

The bridge was a small wood and concrete affair over the thin man-made stream that cut through McLennan Park, just off of Los Gatos Parkway. Alex and Grant sometimes went there to busk… except they usually didn’t have an audience, so it was really more like practicing in public.

Being both easily accessibly from the street and fairly secluded, at this hour the whole park would be deserted. They’d be able to talk without being distracted.

Talk, and..?

The elephant did another little jig.

Angel parked the car. They trekked companionably and silently across the wet grass and damp concrete walking path to the bridge, where they stood side by side, arms on the cool side rail.

“So, Alex. How’s your summer so far?”

“Weird.” He laughed.

“Yeah?”

“How about you?”

“Same.”

“Cool.”

She laughed. “So.”

“Yeah.”

Their arms were just barely touching.

Alex focused on the middle distance in front of him. “Sorry about that guy.”

“Mike?”

“Yeah.”

“Sure you are, Alex,” she chided.

“Okay, maybe not so sorry. You got me. He seemed… I don’t know…”

“Stuck up?”

He chuckled. “Okay, sure. That’s good enough. I mean, I could think of some other things to say, but, y’know, I barely knew the guy.”

“Wish I could say the same.”

Alex frowned. “Hey, did he do anything, y’know, like..?”

She shook her head. “No, nothing like that. It just… he was just…”

“What?”

“Just another one of my many bad choices. I have a track record to maintain, after all.”

“You and me both.”

Angel scoffed. “You had the same girlfriend for three and a half years.”

Alex frowned and looked out at the trees and benches. “Yeah. Well.”

He could feel Angel studying him. “Have you heard from her?”

“Not for…” Alex had to think about it. “It’s been a few months.”

“I guess I’m surprised.”

He shrugged. “Eve moving away… you know. It was, um, complicated.” He looked at her with a sheepish smile.

She drew out the “rye” in “Right” when she said it. “But you did do a good job of showing you were bummed out.”

“Oh, I was! For a while, at least.” He laughed a little. “But then… fuck, everything was just so much more… relaxed.”

“Yep.”

“That doesn’t make me a dick?” Alex thought about Heather. “I think I might be kind of a dick…”

“Alex.” She turned toward him. “Look, I stuck by you while you and Eve were together; we all hung out, Eve and I were friends, but… she was crazy, buddy. Is crazy. Whatever. The point is, you’re not a dick for feeling relieved. They should make you a saint.”

Again, he thought about Heather.

“I don’t know about that.”

She locked eyes with him and nodded her head very slowly. “I do.”

This was the moment he was supposed to go for it.

He knew it.

He should put a hand on the back of her neck, pull her in, and just go for it.

Shouldn’t he tell her about Heather?

Was it terrible to kiss a girl the same night he’d slept with someone else?

Was it right?

She started to turn her head away.

He put a hand on the back of her neck, pulled her in, and went for it.

Her lips were soft and hot. Her tongue was hotter.

Bursts of light snapped behind his closed eyelids: Honest to God fireworks.

They stayed on the bridge for a while.

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The Sovereign Era, The Shaper's World, Daikaiju Universe, Protector Universe, Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights, How It All Got Started, Thing, Carson Meunetti, Lina Porter, Alex Kent, Crystal Dubois, Abbeque Valley, Dana Cove, Pinnacle Records, Hagar's and related characters, institutions, situations, and representative depictions in media are trade marks of Matthew Wayne Selznick.
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