She woke with an unusual sense of lightness. Head full of the night before, and skin humming with possibilities. It was a good night. She had felt liked and accepted by everyone she spoke with. Small moments resurfaced in her mind: moments that made her shine…
‘You look like a caramel mudcake.’
She had let out a startled laugh at Jake’s words. ‘Thanks?’
‘He means you look delicious,’ Braydon added, and she blushed. She had quickly turned their conversation into a game where they tried to decide what dessert everyone at the party looked like. Tammy, in a colourful sleeveless dress, was fruit salad. The birthday girl looked like a strawberry meringue, in a fluffy white skirt and pink top.
She remembered that Scott couldn’t keep his eyes off her. The gold layers in her dress shimmered with every movement, and highlighted the blonde in her hair. She table-hopped, being swept up in hugs, and feeling comfortable enough with the company to hug back.
Rolling over in bed, she let memories wash over her.
It was a good night. She hadn’t fought to feel happy; she was simply happy. She had felt beautiful, and she hadn’t felt beautiful in months.
Moments she would hold to: Talking to Scott for an hour or so. Trading banter effortlessly, sharing stories, laughing with him. Playing giant Jenga, and feeling a thrill of anticipation when the tower of blocks swayed on the table. Watching Scott flip a block over in his hand when he’d pulled it free. His face glowed with the satisfaction of staying in the game, and watching her. They removed block by block until the tower was a shuddering mess that barely hung together. As the tower lost its foundation, her confidence grew.
‘I always liked talking to you,’ Scott said, after the blocks tumbled down, ‘but I didn’t really know you before.’ His eyes were overbright with alcohol. The beer in his hand hovered near his mouth.
‘I feel the same. It’s nice, talking more.’ She made her next thought vocal without bothering to censor it. ‘Hey, do you think that maybe instead of being “friends of friends”… we could just be friends?’
Scott nodded, hard. Looked from the foaming top of his beer, back to her.
‘Are you going to finish that?’
He hesitated. ‘I should probably slow down.’
Scott placed the glass on the table. ‘Well, I’ve already had a few and I don’t really like myself when I drink, and I don’t think you’d like me, either.’
‘Well, in that case, then–’ she smiled, and nudged the glass away.
Returning the smile, Scott gave her his full attention. He told her about his eccentric family and their eight chickens – yes, eight chickens. No, they didn’t live on a farm, or even in a rural suburb. His sister just had a thing for poultry.
She told him about her beautiful dog, who had died the year before. She didn’t know why she told him that – it wasn’t a good topic for a party – but the words streamed from her. He nodded seriously. Said he had cried for a month after his cat passed away.
‘…I have to ask you something important.’
Nerves tingled in her spine. ‘Yeah?’
‘What do you think of Toy Story?’
‘Oh, so sad! Well, funny and endearing, but sad, too. Those movies really carry a sense of nostalgia…’
‘Yes!’ Scott slapped the table. ‘Yes. She gets it.’
‘Did I just pass some kind of test?’
More fervent nodding. ‘Big time.’
The look on his face made her want to lean into him. Her breath caught in her throat. ‘Can I ask you something?’
‘I’ve heard you do theatre stuff. Like, taking part in community plays. Why?’
His gaze was unflinching. ‘I like the attention.’
‘Wow. That’s more honest than I was expecting.’
‘That probably sounds awful, doesn’t it?’
‘It’s just…I’m not very good, socially. I mean, I never was. I was bullied a lot as a kid, and I got really shy…and I guess acting was a way to come out of myself. Well,’ he waved at his half-filled glass, ‘that and drinking.’
‘I hate bullies.’
‘Mmm…So, I guess I like acting for selfish reasons, but I think most actors are kind of selfish. But making people happy is worthwhile, too, right? Sometimes you do a show, and the audience laughs, or you see someone smile, and you think, “Yes! I did something good here.”’
‘That sounds worthwhile to me.’
‘You’re a writer, yeah?’
She nodded. ‘It’s similar to your acting, I think. I do it for myself and for other people. I want to create. Make people think and feel.’
Scott’s eyes were warm, his expression, disarming. He found an excuse to brush her arm.
How well she remembered all the details! It was a good night, feeling pleasant tension swell and stretch. Scott made no effort to hide his disappointment when she finally said she was leaving. She asked him to walk her to her car; he stood immediately and followed her. He walked by her side as they crossed the road, close enough to touch.
She remembered reaching the car. Embracing. There was a linger, and when they broke apart she saw hunger in Scott’s eyes. She was struck by the conviction: He wants to kiss me…
She was relieved and disappointed when he didn’t. But, as she drove home in silence, a quiet contentment stole over her. There was no need for the radio to drown out thoughts of self-reproach. Reflecting on the last few hours, she stored away every precious moment.
As she buried her face into a pillow, Scott’s face burnt in her mind.
On the bedside table, her phone gave a low buzz. She reached for it, flipped it over, and read the text. A smile tugged her mouth.
It was a good night. And it would be a good day.