Fiction: The Jacket
Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold on Southern California, mildly nipping them in the April night air. A group of ten stood in the parking lot of the Starbird diner after several hours of milkshakes, curly fries and tossing bent straws at each other across the booth. Most of them didn’t want to leave, because that meant either a.) going home to an empty apartment, or b.) going home to apartments teeming with roommates. So they stood in a loose cluster, discussing plans for the weekend and cracking jokes about Spencer’s need for a haircut. His corkscrews stood out from his head almost like a football helmet, but he wasn’t quirky enough to pull it off.
Eloise pulled her short cardigan tighter around her, shivering slightly and berating herself for forgetting the unpredictability of beach weather. She was the youngest, a freshman still enchanted with art history and choral singing. Most of the group was already jaded by term papers and late night cram sessions. Still, her sweet enthusiasm rubbed off on them.
Since the start of Spring term, they always ended up at Starbird on Friday nights. The older ones sacrificed a night of cheap beers and vodka sodas to hang out with those still a few years away from young adulthood’s privilege of drunken flirting and hangovers. Truthfully, there was still time for them to head to McKinney’s or The Reef if they wanted. It was only 11:30. The night was young.
“No. No,” Ted protested, shaking his head at something Mauricio had said. His glasses looked like they might fly off his head. “The first Batman was pure genius. You can’t convince me otherwise …”
Ted liked to hear his own voice, and he would continue on the topic of superhero movies indefinitely, or until interrupted.
Bianca interrupted him, her voice always blaring like a brass instrument, the same color as her blocky highlighted hair. “You can’t tell me that anyone was a better Batman than George Clooney. Sorry, not buying.”
Ted began explaining why she was wrong, but Eloise sort of drifted away, wondering if she should go home soon. She had homework to do tomorrow, and she really didn’t care about Batman.
But this was her new family, and it was nice to finally belong with people. Plus it smelled briny and fresh out, the stars winking through the tufts of marine layer. The night promised magic, as all nights do when you’re nineteen.
Brian stood slightly back from everyone. The tallest of the group, he didn’t usually say much. He wore a brown bomber jacket and jeans, and he was the only one to sport a beard and get away with it. Eloise always thought he looked like he was just about to go backpacking in the Sierras, contemplating thoughts too heavy for twenty-two.
As Ted, Bianca and Mauricio continued arguing about which Batman was the best and why, Spencer jumped into the fray, corkscrews bobbing above his head eagerly. Their discussion increased in volume. No one looked quite ready to leave yet.
Eloise gazed thoughtfully at the others, who were engaged in less enthusiastic discussions. Smaller organelles of a larger nucleus. She didn’t particularly listen to any one discussion, just felt content at being a part of a whole, on the brink of possibility. She rubbed her upper arms, trying to keep her teeth from chattering.
Suddenly Brian broke from his small sect and moved toward Eloise. Without a word, he pulled off his bomber jacket and draped it over her shoulders.
She stared up at him, brows slightly lifted and mouth ajar. No one noticed. He hadn’t looked at her while doing it, but she now couldn’t look away. An unfamiliar current surged through her.
“Thank you,” she said softly, wrapping it tighter around her.
He glanced at her and nodded, opening his mouth and then closing it abruptly. Eloise thought he was about to say something, but she couldn’t be sure.
The discussion moved from Batman to other Tim Burton movies, but Eloise wasn’t listening. Suddenly, only one other person existed besides her.
She inhaled the sharp air. His jacket smelled both musty and like wood smoke, with a hint of something else. Juniper, maybe.
She never forgot that smell.
Well, I’m a scientist so you totally had me with words like “organelles” and “nucleus.” I was also fascinated by your choice of “old” names. Great story!
Stacie recently posted…I’m A (yeah) Writer
Such a sweet story. I really liked the way you ended this piece.
Karen recently posted…How I Became A Hustler
YES! Gorgeous 😀
Considerer recently posted…A-Z April: Noir
I enjoyed your wonderful story,thank you.
George Clooney was the WORST Batman. They were all better than him…
Twindaddy recently posted…Share Your World – 2014 Week 15
ah young love.
christina recently posted…excerpts from Phun’s Blog
Wow this was really sweet! Eloise totally endeared herself to me and Brian’s act of draping his jacket around her shoulders made me go “aww” 🙂
This immediately carried me back 20 years. The characters, their voices and preoccupations represent that age so well.
Silverleaf recently posted…Blogging 201: Goal-setting
lisa thomson-The Great Escape...
Very sweet story, Natalie. I love how you captured that feeling of friendship and belonging and the group dynamics. Very optimistic! The smells are powerful, too.
lisa thomson-The Great Escape… recently posted…A Spring Kind of Mood
very nice… enjoyed reading as a story (now trying to figure out how you did it.
(the double life of a writer-wannabe-by-necessity)
clark recently posted…write a Post around a photo?!? the Wakefield Doctrine (yeah and that’s the most normal thing about this Post)
This is a piece with brisk movement, good,tight writing! Enjoyed the characters, their interactions and the wholesome feeling in this post.
This is a sweet story! Now she can preoccupy herself with wonderings of ‘is he a friend?’ or ‘is he more?’ 🙂
JannaTWrites recently posted…Metaphorical Winter (Speakeasy #157)
I love the way you drew me in and made me feel like I was a part of the crowd, there outside the diner, hanging with my buds! Of course, it was twenty plus years since I would have been there, but these kind of friendships are timeless, as you’ve just shown!
peggyshope recently posted…Speakeasy #157 Viva la Resistance
You captured this age beautifully. The comfort of belonging, the possibilities. Loved the ending 🙂
What a lovely story of college going kids and their social life or lack of it :-)Loved the relaxed pace and the lines,”Smaller organelles of a larger nucleus. She didn’t particularly listen to any one discussion, just felt content at being a part of a whole, on the brink of possibility.” Wonderful!
Atreyee recently posted…Winter’s child
Wow. I love everything about this. You painted such a wonderful scene of those promise-filled days of youth. And the subtle interaction with Brian was absolutely lovely. Beautifully done! 🙂
Suzanne recently posted…T is for…
aww the good ol’ days and young love. This was so well written!
Jen Brunett recently posted…Music Memories
Wonderful. I love the rich detail of the characters and the settings. It felt real, like I was there. For me this story felt warm and comfortable like a summer breeze. I love the subtlety of the ending, of future promise. This story just makes me feel good.
E.A. Wicklund recently posted…Wild Bird Wednesday #92
You’ve written this with such a light touch – it’s lovely.
Tam recently posted…The Speakeasy | Winter’s Kitten