Summer of 1999
Stacey called up the stairs for Jane again, impatience over riding her excited body. As she waited for her sedate friend to present herself, Stacey paced the hall and tapped her fingers against her thigh in an increasingly rapid rhythm, a habit she had acquired from her anxious mother. Stacey glanced out the kitchen window to the rennovated volkswagen van sitting idly in the driveway, and she itched to be behind the wheel. She'd just gotten her P-plates and along with them, that twenty year old beast, from a distant uncle whose name she had forgotten. The plan tonight was to make her debut appearance at a college bonfire, but Jane's depressive attitude was like a cold bucket of ice water dripping slowly over her burning curiosity about college boys.
Jane was up in the bedroom, carefully weaving the last of the flowers into her hair over her ear. She'd been dreading tonight for weeks, but Stacey wouldn't let her out of the deal; go with her to this party, and in return Stacey would drive Jane cross-country to see her parents for the first time in two months. Cross-country to that tiny town, with all her old friends, her sister, Tom...
Stacey appeared in the doorway, but Jane's head drooped so low that she didn't notice.
"Jane, I swear, I'm going to pull you kicking and screaming down to that beach if I have to. It's been a month, your sympathy card has officially run out. No more ice cream or slacks for you." Stacey took Jane's hand and led her down stairs, through the house, and into the van, even feeling compelled to strap her in.
"By the way, you look beautiful."
Jane smiled gratefully at her best friend who was reversing the car with a relaxed air of superior ability. "You do too. And thanks for this. I know I'm being difficult, but your a good friend."
The two of them were silent for the rest of the trip, but Stacey did pull a beer out of the cooler, offering it to Jane. Jane took it, fighting to ignore that the beer was Tom's favourite type. She was finished with it by the time Stacey pulled the volkswagen onto the sand, the surrounding college students staring after its bright colours and overall presence. Stacey killed the engine and hopped out quickly without asking about Jane's plans for the night.
Jane sat there for a moment, uncertainty lining her shadowed face. She could get out and join the party, meet a nice guy, dance and get drunk like normal students would. Or she could sit there silently crying and feeling sorry for herself. She considered both of these options until someone banged on her door, making her jump.
It was a guy, maybe 19, signalling for her to wind down the window. She scrabbled around her feet for the torch she had absently packed into the car a few hours earlier. She clicked it on and shone it right in the young mans face. He cringed and squinted, but he didn't react any other way, not jumping back and leaving her alone. Not the way she wanted him to.
She could see him clearly now; the man had short blonde hair, with a hint of a side bang hiding amongst the light layer of gel. He was tanned by long summer days basking in the beach sun, with a sharp jawline and strong straight nose. And, before she flicked off the torch and wound down the window, she noticed he had green eyes, like her own.
"What do you want?" She asked, not meaning to sound as sassy as she did.
"First off, Hi," he replied, unshaken by her mood, whatever that was. "I just came for the beers, Stace said to just grab them out of the boot but I thought it would be rude to intrude on whatever...this," he gestured to her, "is."
For some reason, Jane was slightly annoyed by this guy talking to her, and began to grind her teeth together as he talked and joked until she was completely disconnected to what he was saying. It was only when he smiled, all perfect, straight teeth gleaming in the fire light, that she jerked awake again and cut him off mid sentence by jabbing the door open, and heading to the back door. He followed unphased, helped her slide it open and took out the beers, handing a case to her.
"Could use some help," he said and walked toward the noise and heat of drunk people, apparently expecting her to follow after him. For a moment, Jane considered to hoard the case that she was hugging to her chest to herself; to sit in the van, with all the doors locked, and drink herself to oblivion. Her feet began to turn to the van, but her eyes searched the sea of people until she spotted the guy again. When she found him, glowing in the warm firelight, her feet turned back on their own accord and propelled her forward. Why had she been annoyed? She wondered as she gained on him, and by the time she set the case next to his, she found that she wasn't annoyed, but embarrassed.
As she had placed the case down, she lost the guy for the second time, and the fire which had burned so brightly on her way over was now stinging her eyes. She sat herself down out of the way of other people and tried to find something to occupy herself. Jane played with the sand beneath her feet, creating swirling patterns and writing her name with crude accuracy like she used to as a child. The sand seeping between her toes almost made her smile. It was one of her favourite feelings in the world. A shift in weight distribution on the bench notified her of another body invading her space, but the loud pop of a beer lid being wrenched off would have given them away anyhow. She looked across to find the guy from before holding a beer out to her.
"Sit here with me," he said, patting the space next to him. Reluctantly, she shuffled herself along the bench, taking the beer and a swig as she stared silently at her flip flops. Moments later, a hand interrupted her view of an ant inching along her skin.
"I'm Clem, by the way, Clem Eaves." The guy said, watching her expectantly until she took his hand. "Sorry for being late on the introductions. Who are you?"
"I'm Jane. Jane Roberts." He smiled at her, his teeth impossibly bright against his skin. He prompted her in innocent conversation until she gave in and contributed equally to the discussion of what college they each attended, which classes they studied and briefly about what they wanted to do when they were older.
"My studies are pretty hectic, but I'm on a few months break now so I came out here to visit my mates for the summer," he said and reached for another drink. Jane watched him critically until he opened his new drink.
"You sound funny. Where did you say you were from?" Jane asked. Clem laughed.
"I didn't. I'm Australian, from Melbourne." He laughed again at her confusion. "South. That's south. Can I ask where you're from?"
She blushed. "You can, but will you?"
"Depends; is it interesting?" He relied with a smile.
Jane's blush deepened as she recognised the familiar feeling of flirting. It's bittersweet taste lingered on her tongue when she whispered, "Maybe I can let you find out for yourself; to make it a bit more interesting for you." He leaned in slightly, their foreheads almost touching, but she kept her knees far away out of habit. They remained like that for a few moments, until the music turned louder and Clem reacted instantly.
"This is my favourite song! C'mon, dance with me."
He pulled Jane off her butt before she had a chance to protest. They began to dance together, she was a little awkward at first but then managed to catch the sway of Clem's body. The close heat from the fire and the swell of music, and the friction of Clem's body dancing with hers, forced a surprised smile on her face. Clem smiled in reply and spun her round, swaying with her to the beat of the music. They grew closer, no longer dancing at arms length, her arms slung behind his neck like she'd known him forever.
Clem held her hips, the beat of the music vibrating though him. Truthfully, he didn't know what this song was, but he wanted an excuse to dance with this girl because something about her drew him to her. The smell of her curly brown hair, the liquid look of her grass green eyes. Her plush lips, the light sprinkle of freckles on her nose. Just something.
And now he had her and wished that this moment last forever. But he was dismayed to catch the sight of the first suns rays over Jane's shoulder, signalling that his time with this girl was already coming to a close. Had she just arrived late or had they really danced for hours, when this felt like it lasted only seconds?
This girl was a little bit shorter than he, maybe at eye level with his chin, but he had never been very tall. It was obvious that she was trying not to have a good time, and Clem was determined to understand why. He reached around to the small of her back as the music changed and the beat slowed. Her head leant against his shoulder, neither talked, they just stayed like that hardly moving at all.
Until three girls, one of which was Stacey, pulled the two apart, laughing hysterically, obviously very drunk.
"C'mon Janey, we have to go now," Stacey said into Jane's face, her breath smelling of strong spirits making Jane want to gag. "Mia's sick and..." Stacey turned to Clem, who was looking on in bitter humour. "Clemmy!"
"Hi, Stacey," he said casually, a part of him hating her because his fingers ached to touch Jane again. "Why don't you get someone to drive you home, eh?"
"That's what I got Jane for. Right Jane?"
"Actually sweetie, I've had a few beers myself. I can't drive," Jane protested, very badly wanting to stay with Clem. But Stacey shook her head frantically.
"No! no, no, no, you're not drunk... you can drive. See you can walk fiine," Stacey pushed Jane in an effort to show her that she could walk. But, much to Jane's surprise, she staggered, and clumsily tipped over a few beer cans.
Clem came and hoisted Jane away from the group of girls. "Sorry girls, get someone else to drive you, someone not drunk. Do you have the keys?" Clem asked Jane.
Jane shook her head and watched the group ead for the car, their intentions clear. Worry lined her pretty face and Clem didn't think he had ever seen anything so cute.
"Look, I have to go. They're going to kill themselves. But, call me on Stacey's phone?" She was already out of his arms and halfway to the car.
Clem only nodded after her watching the beautiful girl climb into the van, unsure if he ever had Stacey's number in the first place.