In the act of bending down to the lowest shelf of the fridge I momentarily freeze. Not long – mind – it only takes a shadow of a second to catch the beginnings of a grimace and widen my mouth into a grin. And a cheeky one at that.
It’s good enough for John, sitting on one of the yard sale specials that edge around the equally trailer trash kitchen table. I’m sure it all looked nice in the 70's, on someone’s back patio. My best friend grins back, no one the wiser. He glances out the window in time to miss the slight wince as I grab the can of pop he asked for.
I don’t feel like one myself. The line of thunderstorms we had yesterday have cooled things down, taken away the oppressive mugginess. I’m not nearly as sweaty as I was last night, laying on the kitchen floor, watching the patterns the lightning made on the ceiling.
John’s chatting away, no doubt the latest gossip about the good folks of Highland Park, the rather bohemian part of Akron where our families live. I’m paying him no mind but, rather, looking down at the floor, at the spot where I watched the storm. There’s no marks there; no blood; no dents. That’s good. Cover up all evidence, eh?
A pregnant pause. Shit, I realize John’s expecting an answer to a question I didn’t hear.
‘Sorry, what’d you ask?’
‘Do you want to meet up with Betty and Aisha tonight?’
‘Yeah, okay.’ Betty and Aisha are fun, the four of us just had a movie night this Tuesday.
The day before this happened.
Thinking of the girls, I absentmindedly sit on the edge of the table.
The shape metal edge 70's America loved so much jabs into the back of one leg, right onto a bruise. I hiss in pain, catching John’s blanched face as I hunch over.
I blink; I stare straight at the floor. Whatever you do, Robin, don’t look him in the eye. Cos then he’ll absolutely know.
Not that he doesn’t know – he always knows, the bastard – it’s just that I’ll know he knows. Don’t ask me why that’s so important but it is.
And besides, I hate being pitied.
I ignore him. Why does he not call me by my full name? Adding an extra ‘in’ can’t be hard, can it? My step-dad calls me Rob. I really hate that.
Still ignoring the question in his face, I throw my own question back at him. ‘So we doing something with the girls tonight? Betty had said something about Casablanca playing at the Civic this week.’
He gives me that stupid look he does so well. It makes me want to hit him hard. You’d think I should know exactly how to do it and where to strike for the most effective impact. But, to be fair, I’m sure he was putting his Oprah-head on, preparing himself for yet another heart-wrenching chapter in my boring life for him to cry over. But no, I don’t feel like playing the part. I’d rather think of Bogart and Bergman.
Sighing, I give him the quick version of Betty’s conversation the other night, boiling it down to – do you want to see if the girls want to go to the Civic tonight?
He nods, but I know he’s not thinking of the grand old movie palace. Or Bogart and Bergman. Or even Betty and Aisha. He’s staring at my arm. At the bruise the long-sleeve t-shirt was supposed to be hiding.
I’m not saying a word. Not one fucking word. It’s old stuff, this. Everyone knows Robin Bowen gets the shit kicked out of him by his step-dad every once in awhile. Big deal. I don’t want to think about that, I want to think about the movie; I want to think about pretty girls.
I want to think about happy endings.