He blinked repetitively. “Edie, I—”
“Six feet down, John.” I nodded to the balls on the table.
Frown in place, he turned his attention there too. “Oh.”
“Mom says I shouldn’t joke about death, but I don’t know . . . gallows humor feels about right after what we went through.”
He said nothing.
“Don’t you think?” I asked, stalling, giving him time to pull himself together. Praying things wouldn’t get weird. Weirder. I’d only just got him back as a friend; I couldn’t lose him again. It’d been a random ocular accident, no more. After all, we both knew I wasn’t his type. Still, maybe I should make more of an effort to get laid. Apparently, sex made for a wonderful stress-buster. And right now, my best male friend was making me feel a little wound up.
Yes, genius. I’d found my next first to strike off the list.
“Yeah, I do,” he said eventually and nodded toward the table. “Best of three?”
I smiled. “You’re on.”
After I’d beaten him another time or two, he drove me home. Nothing happened between us. I mean, of course it didn’t.
“I’m just saying, I think that educationally the movie had a lot to offer,” said Hang, chewing on a straw.
Friday night and we were at a party in the field past the Old Cemetery Road skate park. Far enough out of town to avoid any interest from concerned parents, citizens, or the police. Yet close enough for plenty of people from our school and a few others to show up.
Car lights lit up the space. One had its hatch up, speakers blasting music out of the back. Another had the prerequisite beer keg and red Solo cups working overtime.
“Beast Man,” said Hang in a low, deeply disturbing voice.
I wept for me. Or pretended to. “It was so wrong. I still want to gouge my eyes out.”
“Please. You loved it.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yeah, you did. Another first gone—you’ve now watched a porno.” Hang grinned. “I can’t believe my brother had that on his computer. That’s blackmail material for life.”
“I’m never watching anything like that ever again,” I said, taking a sip from my cup of beer. Like it or not, it was the only thing on offer at this party. “I feel dirty, like my soul is stained.”
“Oh, it is. You’ll be burning in hell with the rest of us now.”
Sadly, I nodded. “And I keep seeing that poor, innocent cave girl sacrificing herself to Beast Man’s unnatural lusts. She was so brave.”
“She saved the clan.”
Hand to my heart. “A role model for all young women.”
“Yes,” sighed Hang. “I want to be just like her when I grow up.”
We both lost it, exploding with laughter.
“Good evening, ladies,” said Anders, appearing out of nowhere as per usual. How someone so big snuck around so easily, I didn’t know.
“Hey, Anders.” I smiled, wiping away tears from laughing so hard.
“What are you two on?” he asked, eyes curious.
“Life. We’re high on life.”
He did not look convinced. “JC’s skateboarding. I got restless, figured I’d come talk to you guys.”
“Lucky us,” said Hang. “You know there’s plenty of other girls here you could bother.”
Anders gave her a look. No idea what it meant.
Hang’s elbow knocked against mine and she nodded to someone nearby. Red hair, medium height, cute. The boy from Trig had arrived. Apparently, the very same person who had asked my new bestie about me and expressed a keen interest in meeting same. I drank some more beer, trying to be cool as opposed to the usual sweaty, nervous wreck. It didn’t work.
“He’s here,” said Hang.
“I see.” Deep breath in, slowly let it out. “I don’t know.”
“Nice, nonthreatening, knows what he’s doing if his last girlfriend is to be believed.”
“What are we talking about?” hissed Anders, bringing his head down to our level. “Who are we looking at?”
“Nothing. Go away,” said Hang.
“But I want to be one of the girls!”
“No.” She put a hand over his face and pushed.
He made a weird kind of “ugh” sound and retreated into the night.
“You were the one who wanted to get your v-card punched,” she said calmly. “But it’s totally up to you, Edie. You’re in control.”
More beer. “Remind me. What was my reasoning again?”
Holding up her hand, she ticked off her fingers one by one. “It can be messy, painful, potentially embarrassing. And you just want to get it over and done with so when you meet someone you want to be in a relationship with, which could be years from now, you’ll be equals.”
“Right, that makes sense.” I nodded. “The logic is sound.”
“Plus, if he really does know what he’s doing, there should be an orgasm in it for you. Win! But, it’s also another first you wanted to experience in case you somehow die tomorrow in a bizarre accident,” she said. “Caught in a stampede of runaway llamas. Mauled by a pack of rabid shih tzu. That sort of thing.”
“You mock me, but it could happen.” I snapped my fingers. “Just like that you’re gone, dead. The end.”
“All right, my morbid friend. Whatever you say.” She took my beer, finishing it off. “Bump into him as you go get a new drink. Talk to him—I hear guys like that.”
My feet stayed put.
“Or not. You’re sleeping over at my place, so you’ve got the whole night,” she said. “You can always decide later. No pressure.”
“No pressure.” Apart from the hand holding down my heart, fingers slowly squeezing. I would not have a panic attack. I would not freak out.
“You could wait a little longer, magically meet someone wonderful and want him to be your first.” Hang shrugged. “You just never know. You’ve only been at the school a couple of weeks.”
“Or maybe that guy over there’s the one and you’ll fall in love, get married after college, and have babies.” A dreamy smile appeared on Hang’s face. “Then you’ll be able to tell everyone you married your high school sweetheart.”