Greg watched Seth pick through his latest piece. He learned quickly and the challenge of teaching him helped Greg get over the memories. It might have been Hal teaching him those first years. He banished that memory quickly. Seth was an earnest student. If he was serious he would soon be better than Greg could be.
Greg had picked up the guitar as a way to connect with his elusive older brother. It took him a while to get into it. "I'd like to hear you play the piano some time. You must have been pretty good."
Seth shrugged. His first discomfort with Greg had given way to a shy admiration. He was different than the other older boy's he knew in Bonner. When he took his guitar out Greg immersed himself in the music. The two boys did not get distracted by talk. Greg had set up both electric guitars as a reward the week before and they had played together. Seth had been so pumped he had suggested Greg might sell him the extra electric. Greg had looked sad and told him it was his brother's. Seth had felt bad about that, but Greg had shrugged off the moment and taught him how to accompany him on another piece. After a while Seth could not keep up and he just sat absorbed by the riffs Greg was playing. The sounds gripped Seth's heart and filled him with a sense of sadness. It was not anything he had heard before. When Greg stopped Seth told him he thought it was cool. Greg's face flushed a little and he put the guitar away without comment. Seth realized Greg had just made it up. That's what I want to do , he thought.
Greg liked the cute kid's company and found himself looking forward to the afternoon sessions. He leaned on his guitar and watched Seth as he picked out a few of the cords he had just played. After a month they were comfortable working together, but Seth said little about himself. They never talked at school. Greg would have thought nothing of that. After all, two months ago an eighth grader would have been pretty far below Greg's radar. Bonner was different. Evan and Tyler Molde seemed to draw most of the boys into their circle. Even the seventh grade boys expected Greg to talk with them.
Seth had a determined set to his jaw and a slight frown of concentration furrowed his brow as he repeated the cord and fumbled with the fingering. Greg poked his arm and Seth's eyes suddenly met his. Two weeks ago that would have brought a belligerent blush to Seth's cheeks. Seth had been skittish about being close, now it brought a shy smile to his lips.
Greg broke the contact and showed Seth the fingering. He looked back expectantly and Seth tried it again.
The room was small. Greg had begun sitting on the bed so that Seth could have the desk chair. He had eventually shifted to sitting on Hal's heavy amp. When Greg leaned forward their knees touched.
"Come to my place tonight we're going to have a party." Evan leaned close so his voice would not be picked up by the mike on the table. Greg found him a distraction. He was trying to concentrate on his own work. "What do you say? We'll get loaded" That was entertainment at the Bonner parties. Get wasted and make out with little girls.
Greg told Evan he would talk later and turned back to his work. He really missed the social scene at McGregor High School. The whole feel in Bonner was whacked. It felt more like being a stranger at a family reunion. The Bonner teenagers told stories that went back years. A phrase Greg didn't understand could set the whole room into hysterics. They had their little rituals. Evan and Tyler worked really hard to get tight with him, but their friends drew them back into the clique. He did not feel comfortable with the young girls at the parties either.
But there was not much else to do. In the month Greg had been in Bonner he had fallen into the accepted weekend party scene. He had not been drinking much since the accident. Part of it was his father. After the memorial service his father had slipped into heavy drinking. Greg had been into himself after the accident and he had let his friends distract him as much as it was possible. It had been his aunt Rose who called his attention to his father's dangerous new habit. After that he began to notice the empty bottles in the trash. Rose got her brother to a doctor and the bottles were exchanged for antidepressants. Greg had to admit the job in Bonner was good for his father. He had not seen any alcohol around the house.
Greg came home from his first party slightly high from the beer. He had left the party when it turned into an uncomfortable make-out session with older boys groping younger girls. His father was still up so they talked. His father had asked if he had a good time. He had not, but he said he had. He knew he should not be driving when he was wasted and mumbled an apology.
"Don't worry about it Greg. You need to be able to unwind a little."
Greg wanted to ask if his father was lonely. The answer was pretty clear and his father confirmed it.
"I'm really glad you're here Greg. I was losing it by myself. Since you arrived I've been able to cut the meds down by half."
Greg let that pass. It was all for the good, but he did not like to think about his father that way.
"Your mother would kill me for suggesting this if she was here; if you need stuff I'll pick it up for you." Greg let that pass too. There was always some nineteen-year old willing to pull for the high school students. "Bonner likes its teachers sober while the seventh graders get tanked." His father added lamely.
That was the way it was.
Greg glanced at the class in Aspen and wished he could spend some time with people his own age. He looked back at Evan's expectant face and nodded his agreement before turning back to his work. Evan squeezed his thigh close to his crotch before picking up the thread of the Biology class.
Evan's touch made Greg feel uncomfortable and he thought briefly of Tim Gillard. Evan Molde had a disturbing resemblance to his friend.
Greg glanced at Ms. Patterson. She seemed immersed in some marking, so Greg flipped his Hotmail up and checked his inbox: stuff from his Media 20 classmates and the teacher in Maidstone. Zoë had replied to his last message and there was something new from Allan. There wasn't anything from Tim. Greg didn't understand that. He thought they were close. Zoë's reply was long. He read through it with a smile. She was the only one taking an interest in what he was doing lost in the north.
Driving in the country was a frustration for a city boy. Greg never knew where he was going. He had been out to the Evan Molde's place before so it gave him the freedom to take his own wheels.
He drove cautiously on the rutted grid road. He learned his lesson in January when the Mustang left the road and sank into the soft drifts. It was cold and he had decided to walk down the road to a nearby farm yard. He watched anxiously while a good natured farmer hauled his car out with his tractor. The old man had taken the time to lecture him about driving on gravel and then waved him on his way. The man's easy confidence left him feeling young and incompetent.
There was a respectable gathering by the time Greg kicked his shoes off. An hour later he was perched on the kitchen counter listening to Alden argue local hockey with three older men who had come to the party. Bonner's rink was close to total collapse and hockey in Aspen was a necessary concession in the community rivalry.
Greg was paying more attention to Rebecca than to the conversation. After accepting a beer from him she had leaned the curves of her fourteen year old frame back against him and casually placed a hand on his leg. The small of her back and swell of her ass invited his touch. He could smell her scent through the humid mixture of beer and smoke. It was hard not to caress her shoulder or cup a breast. He felt his cock begin to swell.
Rebecca turned playfully and wrapped her arms around his neck so she could pull him close for a kiss. He let his hands hold her waist while lips played across his.
"Let's go somewhere." she whispered.
It was territory Greg had promised himself he would leave unexplored, but she had him snared and he followed her down the hall to a bed room. She paused to check the first door and Greg got a glimpse of shadowy figures before she closed the door. They ended up collapsing on Evan's parent's bed.
Greg promised himself he would not let it go too far. She was young. He had not come prepared.
His cock ached as her weight pressed down on him. She knew he was hard and slid off him so that she could push her hand down his pants and grasp his erection. He needed her so he did not stop her when she pulled his pants open and kissed the crown of his cock. He let his hand travel around her hip and tight ass while she played him. She stopped as soon as he came.
When he opened his eyes she was brushing her hair back. He rolled her on her back and surprised her when he went back to kissing her. She protested a little when he unzipped her and fingered her clit, and then she began to respond to his touch. It took longer than he thought it would. At the end she had abandoned kissing him and lay clutching the bedding as her sex drenched his hand and her body became ridged. When she finally came in a quaking orgasm she was moaning loudly. Greg never knew when to quit so she finally had to pull his hand off of her.
"That was awesome." she whispered with a look of surprise that left Greg wondering if he had introduced her to something new.
She zipped herself up and disappeared before he could say anything. He thought staying close to her would be the right thing to do, but when he caught up to her in the basement she was sitting on someone's lap. Tyler lured him into a pool game and she seemed to forget him.
"I've got some weed; interested?" Tyler offered. Greg paused before he hit the cue ball. He had already broken his promise not to get involved with the little girls, why not have a toke? Greg thought they would step outside, but Evan's folks apparently did not care.
Greg looked at the glowing twist of paper and then sucked the harsh smoke into his lungs. Eyes closed, he felt grief and regret flood into him. When he let the smoke leak out of his nostrils as Hal had always done, he was left with a deep emptiness. Committed now, he took a second drag. The welcome high engulfed him and magnified his sudden mood change.
Tyler moved close and took the joint back. "Its good shit; I can hook you up to some if you like."
Greg had been lost in his thoughts and he suddenly felt jumpy with Tyler's hand on his back. Faces seemed to be staring at him from around the room and the overwhelming sense of his loss was joined by an unusual sense of paranoia. His eyes focused in on the ring glistening in Tyler's ear. Greg needed some space. He muttered his thanks to Tyler and went up to the quiet of the living room.
When he came back to the present he found Alden and Beth sitting on the floor near him. He realized he had been focused on the stud in Alden's ear. Somewhere along the line he had acquired a glass of water.
"Are you okay?" Beth looked like she had been talking to him for some time.
He smiled at the ninth grader and started to tell them that he was fine when he was interrupted by a chorus of groans from the direction of the upstairs bathroom.
"Oh man that is just gross," a voice groaned.
"Dude your brother's gone and shit himself," another voice added.
There was a general chorus of disgust in the hallway as Evan struggled through the on-lookers. He started cursing violently when he reached the bathroom.
"Take you're fucking brother home, Dwain." Evan was clearly furious.
"I'm not touching him. It's your party; I'll come back for him later," Dwain sniggered back.
The crowd broke up and Greg and Alden peered over Evan's shoulder. Wesley was past out on the tile floor with his pants and underwear tangled around his ankles. A foul brown smear trailed off the edge of the toilet and across the floor. Wesley must have struggled a bit because he had managed to soil himself badly.
"This just isn't right." Evan complained to nobody in particular.
Greg wanted to leave right then, but he felt bad for Evan. He stepped past Evan and bent down to shake Wesley. He came too slowly and blinked his eyes while Alden pulled his pants off. "Watch the shit guys." The boys dropped Wesley into the tub and stripped off his t-shirt. Alden took the clothes off to the washer while Greg started spraying water on the boy. Behind him he could hear Evan cursing softly as he cleaned the floor. "I'm going to puke."
"Clean yourself off Wesley; come on, do something," Greg complained.
The boy lolled his head to one side as he mumbled something.
"Oh for fuck sake; he's too wasted Evan!" Greg looked down at the boy and resigned himself to washing him. He tried to do it as quickly as he could.
"Suck my cock Greg." Wesley mumbled.
"Shut up you little shit!" Evan snapped back savagely.
Greg hauled Wesley to his feet and Alden dried him off.
"You suck my dick, Alden." Wesley muttered.
Alden did not respond. He just toweled the boy's head.
"Stupid little kids" Evan laughed nervously as Alden led Wesley away. "Fuck Dwain" he added.
Evan and Greg looked at each other for a moment then Greg patted the other eleventh grader on the shoulder.
"On that happy thought I think I will take my leave," Greg announced. He bumped into Beth on his way out. She must have been watching. He walked out to his car echoing Evan's comment, stupid little kids ; but he did not include Beth in his thoughts. He took a deep breath, conscious of the dope slowing him down. He wondered if Seth would have handled himself any better than Wesley had. Greg hoped that he would.
Greg was leaving for lunch the next Friday when Seth stopped him on the playground. They moved out of the way as a soccer game swirled past them in the snow. He looked down at the boy.
"Would you take me to the party tonight?" Seth asked. Greg could not read the expression on Seth's face.
The young kids at the parties were the reason Greg did not have much fun. They did not know how to handle their drinks, got sick and started breaking things. It was like the younger boys had all watched the movies and decided to model themselves after Stickler in American Pie. They thought the object was to get as drunk as they could. The whole tone of the parties sunk to their level.
He had not thought Seth was into that and said so.
"Aaron has decided to go with his brother. So I thought if I went with you it might be okay," Seth replied watching Greg anxiously.
The idea did not appeal to Greg. He had become really intolerant after dealing with Wesley. He had planned to catch a ride out with Alden so he could cut loose a little. If he took the Mustang he was designated driver. He looked at Seth's puppy dog eyes. He was more mature than the Nigel and Wesley. They looked like grade fives still. Seth, well Seth looked pretty good. Greg asked Seth what his mother would say.
"I have not asked her yet. I think she will say yes if you are the one taking me," Seth answered.
Hell would have frozen over before Greg's mother would have allowed him to get involved in one of these Bonner drunks. Debbie Patterson was clearly very trusting. Greg left it at that. If Seth's mother agreed he said he would take the kid.
Greg watched Seth bounce off; probably in search of his mother. Greg knew how it felt to be left out of the action. He felt that way himself when he chatted with his St. George friends. They had promised to take a road trip up to Bonner, but it had not happened. When he got back in the summer he would catch up with them. He wondered if Zoë missed hanging out with him. He walked through the old hedge. Evan caught up with him before he got to the street.
"Are you all set for tonight?" Evan punched Greg's arm playfully. "I got some prime weed from Clinton Payne."
"I might take my own car," Greg said.
Evan was grieved. "Man you're always bailing on me when things are just getting interesting. I've never seen you cut loose."
Greg told him about Seth. Evan walked in silence till they got to the trailer. Greg tossed some pizza pops into the microwave and gave Evan a soda while they waited. Evan took a sip from the soda. "I didn't figure Seth was going to make a party this year."
"I think he's feeling left out. All the other boys are going tonight."
"What? You mean Aaron's going to go?" Evan seemed surprised.
"Yeh, I guess." More rug rats under his feet, not a girl his own age in sight, it did not look promising; what fun it would be. Greg really wanted to connect with some people his own age in Aspen. Maybe he could talk his father into a trip down to St. George.
They split the pops while Evan filled him in on Justine's talents. He made her sound older than she was. Greg had to admit to himself that after a lonely month along the tree line he was ready to look favorably on some of the younger chicks. If Beth was just two years older... he let the thought drop. He was going to be seventeen in three weeks and Beth Haley was probably only fourteen. She had been at a couple of the parties. They watched each other from across the room and talked a little. She came to the parties with the Switzers. The Hartmann girls did not party. The town was seriously short of girls.
Evan Molde liked to hang out at Greg's. It was the only place where the other boys were not all over him. Tyler was busy or he would have joined them. When Evan was with Greg he had a sense of what life was going to be like next year. The only younger student Greg noticed was Seth Patterson. Everyone else seemed to be useless background to the city kid. When Greg had complained about the grade sevens and eights at a party Evan had pointed out the grade elevens didn't even make a decent card table. Evan watched Greg disappear down the gloomy hallway toward his bedroom. Greg was hard to read. He was clearly into the girls but Evan and Tyler had agreed that there was still a possibility Greg would get into the game. They had argued about it over a case of beer just the night before. Having Tyler out of the picture at that moment was a good thing. Of course he had not considered Tyler's reason for being busy. Aaron and the illusive Seth, Evan considered the possibilities. The cousins were running out of moves as fast as they were running out of time. Still, things were not over yet. Evan liked the vibes he got off of Greg Cox. He was sure he had an edge over Tyler and there was no rush really. More important Greg seemed to have breached the walls of the Fortress of Solitude. If the principal's son could get Seth Patterson to actually come to a party then Evan might be able to score a duce while Tyler was making his play. Evan so loved the chase. He smiled at Greg wolfishly when he came back.
Seth jumped on Greg when he returned to the school yard. He was going to the party. Greg sighed to himself. This would be a story to share with friends. He and his little homey off to chill with each other; yo, yo, yo . Seth glanced nervously at Evan and asked Greg what he should bring. Greg told him he would handle it.
Greg had to ask directions out to the Patterson farm. It was hard to negotiate when he finally reached the yard. The old yard was heavily treed and the snow had drifted on the road into the yard. Seth lived in an old house overlooking a well-treed coulee. Greg pictured Seth building forts in the summer. Greg's father had told him that Seth's dad had farmed up until two years ago when he had collapsed in a field. The picture in the living room didn't give any hint of his heart condition. The land and machinery was sold and his father had told him Debbie Patterson had returned to work. She was one of the people who could not expect a job in the fall. His father told him everything now. Greg tried to listen patiently to his father's ramblings. He realized he had taken his mother's place at the table. His father vented his frustrations and doubts over supper. His father was stressing the school closure. Greg did not have the heart to tell him he did not care.
Mrs. Patterson kept them long enough to let Greg know she expected Seth to come back in one piece. She had looked at her boy and told him he could stay out till one. She would pick Seth up in town so Greg did not have to drive all the way out again.
Seth was pumped to be off to his first party. He bounced back and forth between hyperactivity and a laid back cool he thought was a good imitation of the older boy. He was shy about his new winter coat. It was the same brand as Greg's and he was glad the dude had not commented on it. The boys did not have that much to talk about. Seth was intimidated and drawn to Greg at the same time. He felt safe with the older boy but Greg was so quiet about himself that Seth found him a mystery. Seth thought about him when he practiced his guitar in the evenings. He had even played the piano a little wondering which piece Greg might be interested in hearing. He did not know Greg's tastes.
Tyler Molde's yard was full of cars when they pulled up. Greg parked next to the road. He planned to be one of the first ones to leave. He pulled a case of beer out of his trunk and they went in together. The party went pretty much the way Bonner parties always did. The older boys hit on the younger girls. The younger boys, shut out in the cold, got severely drunk.
Within an hour the first boy was puking in the bathroom. Aaron, at his first party, rolled on the floor moaning proudly about how drunk he was. Greg contented himself with a toke with Evan and a beer. Seth inhaled his first beer and hung with the boys his own age. Greg hated doing nothing so he played pool with Duane and Alden. He was conscious of Beth Haley watching from a corner. He checked on Seth from time to time. The kid got drawn into a drinking game and he worried about it. Between taking shots he watched Seth learn how to play caps. The other boy was too good. Seth did not mind losing. When had Greg become this guy's big brother? He called him away from the game and drew him into the pool game. Seth seemed happy to play with Greg.
The other grade sevens drifted over to watch and the older boys gradually got pushed out. Evan talked him into another toke. Greg sat and watched the action. The dope made him feel detached from the activity around. He felt like an observer. The party drifted toward more intimacy as the alcohol drew people together. Some of the older boys teased the younger boys by pretending to come on to them. Greg had played those games when he was younger. It was funny when you are drunk. He remembered chasing Chance around with a candle threatening to screw him with it. It had been very funny. There was also some game play going on in the bathroom and Greg had to kick a couple out when he needed to use it.
Toward twelve the party got stale. Greg grabbed some water and sat on the couch to sober up a little before he had to take Seth home.
Evan sat next to him and joined Greg in observing the crowd. "Not your scene Greg?"
Greg smiled at him and shrugged his shoulders. He wasn't going to trash Evan or his Cousin Tyler's party.
"I have to get together with you for something a little quieter." Evan smiled at Greg. "We can get stoned together and we can get to know each other."
Greg agreed that would be nice. Greg saw Tyler showing Seth a move at the pool table. Tyler whispered something in Seth's ear that made Seth shift away suddenly.
"Give it a chance Greg. We're not that bad."
Greg knew he was just marking time in Bonner. Because of that, he was being narrow-minded about all the Bonner teenagers. Evan looked so serious Greg knew he must seem like some kind of dark cloud hanging over the party. He was glad Evan kept trying to include him. It might be only four more months but he needed to lighten up. Greg ruffled the dark haired boy's hair and smiled at his expression.
"We'll have a night together and you can get to know all about me."
Seth dropped down next to him and seemed to huddle up against his arm.
Evan noticed him, glanced at Tyler and then leaned around Greg, "Having a good time young Seth?"
Evan did not get a response from the boy so he decided to let it go. This was probably not the night. Tyler had pushed it as he usually did. Evan could be patient when he needed to be. Evan moved on and joined Aaron by the pool table. Tyler joined them and the three of them played pool as the competition shifted to a new player.
"Could we go Greg?" Seth looked a little shaky.
Greg asked if he had one too many beers and thought about Wesley's stellar performance at the last party.
Seth shook his head. "I'm just tired I guess."
Greg figured if Seth wasn't going to drink any more they might as well leave. He told Seth to track down their coats. He said goodbye to Tyler and Evan. He caught Evan's eye and mimed a toke and told him he would catch up with him later. He wove his way through the boys playing drinking games on the floor toward where Seth was waiting for him.
Beth stopped him a moment as he bent to collect the rest of his beer. "You're leaving now?" she looked disappointed.
On an impulse he leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. She blushed and then smiled shyly at him. He flashed a smile back. Another month in Bonner and he would be jumping her bones. He grabbed his coat and shoved the beer into Seth's arms.
Seth commented that Beth liked him. Greg felt a little embarrassed by the kiss and bumped Seth playfully. He told the boy he should go for her himself, they were closer in age. Seth blushed at the idea and unexpectedly threw an arm over Greg's shoulder and gave him a hug.
Greg drove carefully back to town. Seth seemed to relax as they drove home. He talked about the drunks at the party and how different people seemed when they drank. He laughed at his friend Aaron.
Greg told Seth to remember that the next time Seth wanted to get drunk. "You have to be prepared for the consequences afterward." Greg told him about some of his friends in St. George and the dumb things they had done. It seemed funny now, but some of the things they had done had humiliated them at the time.
Seth asked if Greg had ever done anything embarrassing. Greg grinned at the boy's wide eyes and told him that was a secret.
Greg and Seth were surprised to find their parents sitting together over a bottle of wine. There was an awkward moment when the boys stood in the doorway with their coats on.
"You're early" commented Greg's father.
Greg glanced at the clock on the stove and realized that it was only 11:45. He looked at Seth clutching the open case of beer. Mrs. Patterson wondered if they would mind waiting for a while.
Greg grabbed a handful of Seth's coat and pulled him away from the kitchen and down the hall to his room. He silently handed Seth a beer and a guitar. While he tuned his guitar Seth thought about the adults back in the living room.
"You don't think they are going to...?" Seth whispered in horror.
"Don't think about it." Greg chugged half a beer and started playing something he thought Seth could handle. Seth took a drink and joined in. They played for a long time occasionally stopping for a drink or to let Greg explain something about a piece. They sat facing each other, their calves touching.
Seth finally leaned back and looked at Greg.
"What?" Greg asked.
Seth was hesitant to get into something and Greg hoped it wasn't about their parents.
"Are parties always like that?" Greg asked him what he meant. "Well, people getting drunk, making out and doing stuff together."
Greg thought about it. Except for the wide range of ages it was pretty much what he was used to. He liked to get drunk or high and talk with his friends. You played games sometimes or dance. If there was someone hot at the party Greg was always willing to make out if they were interested. He smiled at the memories. He glanced at Seth's serious face. Greg became conscious that their legs were touching.
"Sure, I guess, pretty much." He tried a few cords to see where they were going. "I'm not used to all you little guys at the parties." He glanced apologetically at Seth. "Mostly I hung with people my age." He thought about it for a minute and remembered why young people in Bonner hung together. "I guess that's not as easy out here. I mean I'd have to just hang with Evan and Tyler. Maybe the grade tens"
Seth took a drink and looked at the older boy he had come to admire. He liked the feel of Greg's leg against his. "So you think its okay to fool around?"
I'm back to being the big brother , thought Greg. Seth was pushing the envelope on his questions tonight.
"I guess so. If you're religious or something I guess it wouldn't be. What's the problem Seth? Did you pass up a chance with someone at the party?" Seth nodded. "Well I'm sure you will get another chance if you want it." Seth was a very good looking kid, he would have many chances.
"Well I didn't want to really."
"You're just getting started guy; don't push yourself so much." Greg went back to playing. Greg had passed up a chance himself. Kissing Beth had made him realize how horny he was. He realized Seth's leg was pressed against his again.
"Who do you like more Evan or Tyler?" Seth threw the question from seemingly nowhere.
"What?" Greg had lost the context of the conversation. They were both okay as far as he could see. "I don't know; why?"
"I think you're cooler than them." Seth looked down shyly and tried to remember some of the cords they had been playing. Greg was right; you had to be careful when you drank . He should not have said that and he should not have hugged Greg. Most of the evening was awesome and jamming on the guitars over beer was the best part. It was just that Greg was easy to talk to. Seth wondered what Aaron was doing back at the party. They had not wanted to party with the high school. Everyone had called them babies for holding out. "Sorry."
"Don't be Seth; I think you're pretty cool too." Greg remembered having a few heroes when he was younger. He had not said anything about it though. Greg shifted on the amp and lost contact with Seth's leg. He did not mind it when Seth slid to the edge of the chair and the contact was reestablished. The awkward moment passed and they went back to playing until Seth's mother called him to go. Greg cleaned up and when he went out to the kitchen his father had gone to bed.
Shoveling snow seemed pointless to Greg. Some time in the night it had started to snow heavily. When he looked out the frosted windows onto the street he saw the cars had cut deep grooves through the snow. His father and uncle should have bought him an SUV instead of the impractical Mustang. He pulled some warm things on and went out to clear the drift in the drive way. The alcohol and dope were still wrapped around his head. The air felt good. Once he had the cars cleared he lost interest in the project.
His father was drinking a cup of coffee in the living room. Greg shook his coat off and scrounged for something to eat. Greg was wary about last night. He found the empty bottle of wine on the counter and dumped it into the trash. He had not given it much thought. It seemed hasty to ask his father if something was going on. It had just been two parents waiting for their children. Or perhaps he his thoughts were not that hasty after all.
"Are you going to be okay with it if I invite Debbie and Seth back for a meal?"
That was different.
Greg sat down and looked at his father. Did they have to get into this right then?
"What's going on? Are we all dating now?" It had never occurred to him that while he was trying to find a way to move on his father might have been doing the same thing.
"Give me a break Greg." John did not have a plan. He had realized how lonely he was last night and it had felt good to share the time with another lonely person. "I was just looking for some conversation."
"I don't want to baby-sit all night." He did not want to be part of his father's social life either. Mrs. Patterson was okay. She could even be interesting in class. Sitting around a dinner table was totally different.
"I thought you liked Seth. Anyway he might not want to come either." John knew it was hard to eat with the teacher who had put you on detention at noon last Thursday. John never got invitations out because the students saw enough of him at school. "Well, never mind."
Right dad, make me the bad guy here . What was the problem with his dad seeing women? "It is your life dad. Do what you want. I guess you just surprised me with it." It being only six months since mom died.
"You think I'm out shopping a little early?" Maybe he was, John admitted to himself. John never had handled being alone well. There had been passion with Mary, but it had mostly been the comfort of companionship and partnership.
Greg guessed that was how he felt. His father had walked away from St. George as if he was walking away from the family. He was selling everything off and the trailer they now lived in had no evidence of life before the accident. "It feels like you have written them out of the story," he spoke his thought out loud.
"No, son, I've put them all into you." John had not meant to dump this on Greg, but he was stung by the suggestion. "You're all that I have of Mary." He turned Greg's mother into a person with the word. "You look so much like Hal. I have to stop and think before I say your name." He stopped. He had said too much.
Greg realized he had misunderstood his father. He was sorry he had made the comment, but he still was not ready to see him with another woman. "I didn't think of it that way." He struggled with the idea then gave a little ground. "Look, I'm not going to flip out on you, but I'm not up to this. I'll go out or something." Greg could give his father some space while they both worked out where they were going. John accepted what he could.
Saturday night Greg felt like he had to get away from Bonner. When he talked to Tyler on the phone he learned that Rebecca had attacked Beth outside in the snow after he had left. Tyler described it as a totally hot cat fight. The boys had held back and watched the fun.
Greg ended up driving to Aspen by himself. He bought himself supper at the Chinese place as an excuse for the trip. It was stupid sitting by himself picking at fried rice and his mood darkened when a group of Aspen teenagers came in to take up space and good-naturedly harass the old man and woman who ran the place. The woman looked like she had seen it all. Greg tried not to look at them and decided he should leave. He was just pushing his plate away when a pair of girls sat down across from him in the booth. "You're in the Bonner biology class aren't you?"
"You're the guy who sits in the back all the time." Greg was happy the girls had broken the ice. He knew this was what he hoped would happen. He admitted they were right. They were Kim and Amber. Amber started to finish his rice while the girls pumped him for information. "What do you think of Bonner?"
"It's small." Greg wasn't going to trash the place. "I just needed some space." he added honestly. The two girls suggested he join their table. Greg jumped at the chance. He spent the rest the night talking. One of the guys played drums. He caught Greg's interest and wrote his number on his arm. Greg drove back to Bonner feeling better. There had been some of the same clannish feel in Aspen. There was scorn for the people in Bonner, but it felt comfortable in a way he could not quite explain to himself. Maybe it was just the ages of the people he had just met.
Monday in class the girls he had met in Aspen chanted "Hello Greg" in unison. Greg smiled and turned his back on the suspicious looks the Bonner students gave him. They needed to get out more.