Page 12

Author: C.J. Roberts

“Shut up! When it’s your turn to sing, you can pick the song. Don’t embarrass me in front of Sexy. I want him to marvel at how talented I am,” Livvie said.

“You should let him read your smut. I bet he’d love that.” Claudia made claws out of her fingers and scratched at the air in a motion no one in their right mind would think is sexy but was supposed to be.

“Is that what you’re always writing on your laptop?” I smiled wide, knowing I was going to get my hands on Livvie’s laptop at my earliest opportunity. Livvie looked ashen for a second.

“It’s nothing. Forget it. Let’s play already.”

“Oh come on, Sophia. It’s so good.” She turned to me. “It’s about this girl who—”

“Claudia!” Livvie said seriously and glared.

“Fine. Okay, let’s play,” Claudia said sarcastically.

My interest was piqued before, but I became like a dog with a bone after Livvie’s reaction. I would be asking questions later, that much was certain. For the moment, I decided to focus on the plastic guitar in my hands and pushing the right buttons. It was a good thing my mind is so quick, because even on medium I was having a tough time keeping up with the rush of colors going across the screen.

The intro seemed to take forever, but once Livvie began singing I found myself swept up in the game. Livvie’s voice was beautiful, raspy and powerful. She seemed filled with so many talents I didn’t know about. I wanted to know all there was to know about her. I fleetingly wondered what talents I possessed that could possibly compare with hers. She turned toward me during an instrumental section.

“You’re doing good! I suck at guitar.”

I winked at her.

“Trying to concentrate, Pet. If you don’t mind.”

“Ha! Play on, rock star, don’t let me stop you.” She went back to belting the chorus and I wondered how her lungs were capable of holding so much air.

Finally, the song ended and I skated through the round with a seventy-five percent success rate. The rest of the band scored in the nineties and Livvie the highest with ninety-nine percent. A fact she wouldn’t stop gloating about. I’d never seen Livvie so smug, and I felt my chest expand with something akin to pride at seeing some of my own mannerisms in her. We’d come so far, and I was oddly desperate to see where we could go.

Claudia sang next. Her softer, more lyrical voice did well with “Nine in the Afternoon.” I had a hard time keeping up with the guitar but seemed to be out-performing Livvie, who was attempting to play bass with her entire body. Her tongue was out as she concentrated on the screen, paying no attention to the way I stared at her every chance I had.

After Claudia finished her song and everyone laughed at my sixty-two percent accuracy (Livvie only had sixty-five, and why they chose to only make fun of me, I’ll never know—bastards), the decision was made to sit down to dinner. Livvie’s table wasn’t large enough for all the food and guests, so we served ourselves in the kitchen and brought our plates to the table. It was all so strange to me. I felt a bit like an outsider, even if I’d literally been closer to Livvie than either of her friends.

Once everyone was seated, I picked up my fork, eager to get into the turkey and stuffing when Livvie stayed my hand. I looked at her and purposely growled. She only smiled and patted my hand.

“Not yet, Sexy. It’s Thanksgiving. We have to go around and say what we’re thankful for.”

“I’d be thankful if we could eat,” I muttered. I put my fork down and looked around the table. They were all smiling at me. It was creepy. Believe me—I know creepy.

“Sophia, it’s your house. You should go first.” Rubio suggested.

“Okay,” Livvie said and took a deep breath. “Well, first, I want to say I’m thankful for the food. I can’t wait to eat it. But, more importantly… I’m thankful that I’m here at all.” She swallowed, and the sight of her eyes becoming wet with unshed tears made me want to tell everyone to leave so I could kiss her into forgetting everything she was feeling. Instead, I had to sit and pretend I wasn’t the villain in Livvie’s life. “It’s been a difficult year for me. Last year I spent Thanksgiving alone. I didn’t know where I was going with my life or what I wanted out of it anymore. I was… heartbroken and miserable.” A tear rolled down her cheek.

“Sophia....” Claudia reached for Livvie across her boyfriend’s chest. Livvie smiled.

“No, it’s okay. I don’t mean to cry. It’s just… this year, I have two of the greatest friends a girl could ask for, an apartment of my own—in Spain! And I…” She looked toward me, and damn it I could feel myself getting caught up in her emotions. “I have you. I have a place to belong. I have a family that loves me. I’m deeply grateful for that. I don’t know where I’d be without it.” She wiped at her cheek and shook herself. “Eww, sorry to get all emo. I just love you fuckers, that’s all. Someone else go now.”

I sat perfectly still in my seat, trying to process exactly what I was feeling. Livvie had included me on her list. She was thankful for me. She’d found a place to belong with me. I felt exactly the same way, but I could never be so casual with expressing my emotions. Perhaps if we were alone, perhaps if we were in the dark, or imaginably naked, then I could tell her. But everyone was looking at me. Livvie was smiling sweetly, encouragingly. Claudia’s stare was much more invasive and practically tried to intimidate me into speaking. Rubio simply waited. He was a patient sort. I cleared my throat and smiled.

“Well, it’s difficult to top that, but I’ll try to offer something.” I looked toward Livvie. “I know we haven’t known each other long. We’ve only been seeing each other a month and a half.” She smiled at me with narrowed eyes. “However, I can honestly say… these have been the best six weeks I’ve ever had. I’m thankful for the time we’ve been given so far, and I hope that by next year—” I looked toward everyone else, “I’ll love all you fuckers as well.”

Claudia and Rubio laughed. I returned my gaze to Livvie. She was staring at me with an expression I hadn’t quite seen before. I liked it.

“I’m thankful for good food, great friends, and love. May God bless this food and our friendships,” Rubio said quickly and succinctly. I looked away from Livvie reluctantly and smiled. Claudia pulled Rubio toward her mouth roughly and kissed him much more passionately than was perhaps appropriate at the dinner table. Young love. That’s what I wanted.

Claudia whispered to him in Spanish, “I’m thankful for you, my love.” To the rest of the table, she said, “I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and all this food. Now please, let’s eat it!” Everyone laughed and agreed it was time to eat. I picked up my fork and dove into the turkey and stuffing. It was my first Thanksgiving and I immediately decided we would celebrate it every year.

Over dinner, I listened to Livvie discuss classes with her friends and the movies they were watching. They had been watching Stanley Kubrick’s work and discussing it in class. Claudia and Rubio were fans, but Livvie felt a lot of his work lacked in its ability to communicate a clear message to its audience.

“All this talk about A Clockwork Orange, like it’s the greatest movie ever or something,” Livvie said around the turkey in her mouth. “I’d say two-thirds of the people who saw that movie didn’t fucking get it. It’s the emperor who has no clothes. Enough people called it brilliant that the idiots who didn’t get it pretended to understand it just so they wouldn’t be called idiots—which makes them cowardly idiots. The movie could have been better. It could have delivered the message of the movie in a much clearer fashion and inspired some real dialogue about human nature, society, and psychology as a treatment. Instead, all anyone can remember is the rape scene. It’s stupid.”

“I have to disagree,” said Rubio. “I think it’s very clearly a movie about how society doesn’t care about its own ruination. Society does not care about the disease—it only wants to treat the symptoms. It does not care that Alex is violent or what happened to make him such a sociopath. It only wants him punished and ‘rehabilitated’. But there is no such thing as behavior control. It has to be a choice, a person has to choose to be a better person, and the only reason they choose to be better is if there is a reason. Alex was forcibly rehabilitated with aversion therapy, but once he went back out into the world and encountered all the violence that was still out there he became violent again. It’s the nature of human beings. Kubrick did an incredible job.”

“I know what the movie was about, Rubi. I get the point. My point is Kubrick was so obsessed with portraying the dystopian future that he neglected to push the message to a mainstream audience. Film students and artistic types are not typically prone to violence. The message is nothing new for them. The average movie-goer has to be kicked in the face with the truth or they don’t fucking get it. Why do you think Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ did so well? It was like a hammer of guilt hitting people in the face.”

“Fuck Mel Gibson!” Claudia contributed. “I don’t care if he’s talented. He’s a sanctimonious ass and the last person with any right to make a movie about Jesus.” Rubio caressed Claudia’s arm.

“No need to get worked up, Claudia. We’re just talking.” Rubio looked toward me. “What do you think, James? Are you a Kubrick fan?”

It was the first time anyone had called me James. It was such a simple name. It had no hidden meaning like dog or loyal disciple. It was just a name. A normal name for a normal person.

“Um, I’ve never seen the movie and I don’t really know who Kubrick is. We saw the new Harry Potter last week. I liked that one.” I smiled and sipped some sangria. Everyone burst into laughter, and Livvie leaned over to give me another easy kiss.

“I’m sorry, Sexy. Sometimes we get our nerd on without thinking about other people. Let’s change the subject.”

“I don’t mind. I like hearing what you think. I follow the conversation. Personally, I’d like to think a person can change for the better. But I think Rubio is correct as well—a person has to have a reason to change. They have to believe their situation will be made better by changing. Otherwise, that person is at a disadvantage. Violence is necessary if you live in a violent world.” My heart was thumping hard.

Rubio’s expression turned sour. “I never said violence was necessary. I said there’s too much of it and we need to find a way to treat it as a societal disease.”

“That will never happen. Even flowers kill, Rubio. Human beings are far more flawed than flowers. We all do what we feel we must do. If that means killing… so be it. Survival—”

“Is the most important thing,” Livvie finished. Her expression turned wistful. She set her fork down and stood. “I’m bored of this conversation. Let’s play more Rock Band.” She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. I knew that smile well.

I regretted ever opening my stupid mouth.

We played Rock Band for a few more hours. I got much better at the guitar and actually enjoyed myself. I’d studied a lot of things about America and Americans. I’d learned about their pop culture, but I’d never played a video game. It was very entertaining and I decided I’d be buying a PlayStation the very next day.

Afterward, Claudia and Rubio decided to pack up more than their share of the leftovers and head home. They hugged me goodbye—yes, both of them—and I thought it was a little strange. I went with it, though. I could be a hugger… maybe. No, it was weird.

“If we were in The States, you could buy one on the cheap tomorrow. Too bad Spain doesn’t celebrate Black Friday,” Livvie said as she turned the faucet on and began washing dishes.

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