Lorene Connel was drunk by eight P.M. that Sunday night, but wasn’t quite willing to admit it. It had started, as a way to drown out Gina and Quinn’s incessant chatter while she waited for Doyle’s return from the drive, and then soon escalated to the point where she was hoping it would help her completely shutdown. She didn’t want to be the girl waiting for the right moment to fill Doyle in on her lingering emotionally unbalanced feelings, and yet there wasn’t much of any other way to spin it. Lorene simply couldn’t shake the way he made her feel. It was cross between safe and reminiscent, while still walking the borderline of an obsessive and angry femme, who couldn’t quite pick and choose from the other available male examples. They were all too much like everyone else.
She stood in the middle of the downstairs green bathroom, starring blankly at her own reflection in the mirror, like all the answers were somehow hidden behind her soft blue eyes. Lorene wasn’t exactly sure what her life was becoming, the first three weeks of that summer offering about as much lackluster appeal as they had for her neighbor, the reliable peeping tom, Benji Tate.
At first, she had felt embarrassed by the incessant stares from his bedroom window into hers, but as time passed Lorene grew more used to it than she thought she ever could. Part of it was the fact that after the whole January incident, the simplistically sentimental side of Lorene felt bad for Benji and the sudden turn his life had taken. However, that didn’t necessarily mean that her blinds would always stay open. Instead, it was a flattering cross between ignorance and bliss. Sometimes she needed those eyes to stare, if for nothing else, to remind the young and confused Lorene Connel that there was at least somebody more pathetic than she was.
Possibly, none of it did make sense to her, though. Lorene was a knockout by all conventional high school standards. Longer dirt blonde hair, never completely hiding the prominent dimples and protruding grin that seemed to pop up more often than not when she was walking next to Doyle. Everybody had sort of picked up on the louder than life thumping of her heart by then, except for him, of course. Doyle Booth was too thick most of the time, too stoned or too used to the way things used to be. He didn’t see Lorene as the vibrant sex symbol like all the other pre-prepubescent boys of North Shade High School did. He wasn’t ever the type to suspend disbelief, and so with the clearest of intoxicated female thoughts, Lorene Connel flushed the toilet and stepped back into the familiar hallway lined with family photos and forced smiles.
Audrey Tate stood leaning against the wall by the same bathroom door, waiting to use the facility. Lorene glanced over at her neighbor for the first time that whole day, not nearly drunk enough to ignore the outfit, but just under the right mix of foamy keg beer to make her reaction more obvious than mostly everybody else’s.
“Jesus, you scared me Ms. Tate,” Lorene said, taking a step back from the spectacle.
“Sorry honey, I was just waiting. Are you done?”
“Uh yeah, I am, but… Well, you look really good tonight, just so ya know.”
“Yeah, don’t remind me,” Audrey replied before shutting the bathroom door behind her. She would be home checking in on Benji’s progress within a matter of minutes, before eventually retiring on the living room couch, dreading what the following morning had to offer her.
However, Lorene was beyond young enough to still have a completely full night ahead of her. She walked out the backdoor through the laundry room and into the yard. The crowd had somewhat died down, a few seasoned professionals, friends of her father and so forth, having shown their faces for the food, a few quick drinks and then quickly returned to their own depressingly habitual station on the living room couch. It was mostly just Brady’s reliable crew of scholarly deviants trying desperately to make up for four years of studying with one drunken night of forgetfulness. They made Lorene cringe inside and yet still provided the perfect cover for her to pull Doyle away from the madness.
She walked over towards the large oak tree that sat delicately in the middle of her backyard, Doyle, Gina and Quinn all mindlessly starring at the unrecognizable drunken actions of Brady and his best friend Will Leidy, both climbing opposite ends of the tree, trying desperately not to fall and break their necks. It would have been completely ridiculous to Lorene had she not seen it as a completely shallow attempt at attention. By then she was beyond sick of all the star players, and instead only had eyes for once very prominent fixture that up until that point, had been dancing to a practiced routine with her, his entire life. If nothing else, the first few weeks of that summer had made it clear that she needed a change of pace.
“Hey Doyle, can I talk to you for a second?” Lorene asked, trying not to sound as drunk or flirty as she knew she could, given the proper means to escape.
“What is it?”
“I have something to tell you. It’s like a secret, so maybe if you pull yourself away from these idiots for a sec…”
Doyle confusingly followed Lorene away from the tree, Gina giving the two of them a quick and unsuspecting look, before turning back to the circle around the oak. She thought nothing of it, because she knew she didn’t have to. Doyle had been cowardly moving along since the two stated messing around in October. He was hooked, and she loved knowing it.
Lorene opened the same backdoor to the laundry room, shutting it behind her, while taking the longest of obvious nervous breaths. Doyle started to look around the somewhat enclosed surrounding; wondering what all the fuss could possibly be about. It wasn’t ever like him; even in the current drunk and hazy state he was in, to hypothesize something other than conversation with Lorene. They only really talked anyways.
“So what’s up?” Doyle asked, unknowingly.
“Nothing really, I guess I just sort of wanted to pull you away from all those morons for a moment,” Lorene replied, nervously tapping her left foot to an unknown beat.
“So you don’t have a secret, you just wanted to pretend like you did?” Doyle said with a smirk that instantly got to her.
“Yeah, I guess… I mean, no. I do. I just… Well I’m not sure if I should tell you,” Her heart began to race, the weight from the alcohol, not helping it subside in the least bit.
“Lorene, what’s the big deal here?”
“Okay, uh… Doyle, I think you should break up with Gina.”
“Why?” He asked, the confused look lining his face instantly making Lorene undecided about her answer.
“Well, just because… I like you, and not like a friend, not anymore, I don’t think anyway.”
“Wait… So you’re saying you have a crush on me or something, is that it?” Each of Doyle’s polished responses wasn’t helping in the least with Lorene’s nerves.
“Yeah, but I mean… I think it’s more than a crush. I mean, we’ve known each other for so long, and ever since Gina I wasn’t sure if I did or not, but I do, and I think I could possibly be in love with you Doyle. Then again, I’m not completely sure. It might just be the alcohol.”
“It probably is,” Doyle replied awkwardly, his eyes full of a distasteful glare that Lorene Connel was unaware existed until that point.
“But it can’t just be that. I mean, I know how I feel.”
“Jesus Christ…” Doyle spouted with a sigh. “Lorene, you’re great, and we’re really good friends, but I’m in love with Gina.”
“No, you’re not. You just think you are because she’s slutty enough to fool around with you.”
“Well apparently you are too.”
“It’s different. I miss you when you’re not around and… I just want you to hold me all the time. I mean, I think about you holding me all the time, and our conversations if we were a couple and… Man, I know all of this is kind if making me sound like some antsy little girl with a crush, but it’s the truth Doyle, and I think I had to tell you, because I’m not sure if I can necessarily handle seeing you all the time anymore unless you change,” She felt slightly relieved and at the same inhumanely flabbergasted by her words, chosen somewhat randomly out of a hat.
“I need to go. Get home, I mean. It’s been a weird-ass day, ya know?”
“Aren’t you going say anything. I…”
Lorene couldn’t quite handle the pull anymore. She knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but at the same time, as cliché messages from seasoned heartbreakers go, she just needed to see for herself. She leaned in fast and heavily; kissing Doyle’s chapped lips with her own. Both were somewhat spinning in the small laundry room, not necessarily the most romantic of places for a first anything. Yet Lorene Connel couldn’t tell if it was the space or her own intoxicated mind that made it all more than abundantly clear to her, but in any case, Doyle Booth barely kissed her back that night. He retreated up against the white screen door, both hands passively in front of him, surrendering to any forceful sweet inclinations of the two of them. Doyle wasn’t quite ready to think about it all yet.
“I’m sorry. I can’t… I gotta go, but I’ll call you sometime tomorrow Lorene, see what you’re up to,” Doyle opened the door, and quickly exited the scene, a semi-spooked member of North Shade, Illinois’ frazzled example of what society seemed to be.
Lorene sighed, and tried to hide the abundantly clear tears that were starting to slowly but surely rush out of her light blue eyes and fall delicately on the laundry room floor. She thought before such an incident, that perhaps she was tougher than all those other floaty teenage girls, the ones with dream phones and celebrity crush posters lining their bedroom walls. Lorene was under the impression that it had been her own lack of flirtatiousness earlier in the school year, which made Doyle inevitably fall in with Gina up until that very moment. She knew then, though, that it was never she or he, but rather just the way it all ran together. Doyle needed her as a friend who would always be there, and she was simply the scratching the surface looking for somebody to fill the void. If Doyle could be happy with such a flake like Gina, then why not her with someone else?
The same first floor bathroom from moments earlier helped Lorene Connel piece her life back together again. Her runny black mascara was soon washed down the drain along with the ruby red lipstick she hoped he would notice, but didn’t. A crumpled mess of tissues filled with necessary drops spun around the drain before eventually taking their leave of her that night. Lorene was sure that it was just the alcohol which made her the emotional wreck she wasn’t used to seeing stare back at her from the bathroom mirror, but as the night took another unexpected turn, she would find it much harder to distinguish between what she thought and what was clear to everyone.
The keg had kicked minutes before nine-thirty all the wealthy friends of Victor Connel having put a much greater dent in the supply than Brady and his brainy confidants. However, their youthful numbers were the ones that remained stumbling in and around the Connel’s house and backyard as the hours before midnight slowed to a crawl. Lorene stationed herself on the tacky lime green couch in the basement, flipping through the familiarly dull program choices and waiting for her heavy head and heart to both subside. The former did so rather faster than she had imaged, while the latter would patiently take its time.
Will Leidy wandered into the basement, in the most drunken of hazes, each of his distorted steps striking the dark gray carpet with a fury. He held an empty red plastic cup in his left hand, as he eyes ran in circles around the room, searching for a vice to fill it, before eventually coming to a clear and concise realization that possibly there was more to do downstairs than steal alcohol.
“Hey Lorene,” Will said in a mumble, before sitting down on the couch right next to her.
“Hey Will, how’s it going?”
“Decent. I was just looking for more booze. The keg’s kicked.”
“Well, I’m surprised it lasted this long.”
“Yeah, but isn’t there a liquor cabinet?”
“It’s in the dining room upstairs.”
“Oh. Well, shit… I don’t know if I have the strength to walk the whole way up there.”
“Yeah, well I understand. I mean, my mom’s probably keeping a lookout for the likes of you anyway.”
“Yeah, probably…” Will let out a longer breath, before he started to strut along the line of supposed off-limits territory, looking right at Lorene’s glowing baby blues, the reflection of the television set lighting them up with each channel passed by. “So, I guess we’re not gonna see each other too much this summer with Brady leaving tomorrow and everything.”
“Yeah, I guess not.”
“I mean, unless you would want to, ya know, hang out or something.”
“Are you trying to get at something here Will?”
“I think you’re really cute, Lorene.”
“You and a lot of other people,” She replied, sarcastically.
“Well, isn’t there anything that sets me apart from the others?” He turned his head to the blankness of the basement, almost ashamed by such a statement.
“You’re my brother’s best friend, Will.”
“Yeah, but with college coming up and everything, I don’t really foresee that friendship lasting for too much longer.”
“You’re point being?” Lorene asked, disinterestedly.
“I guess I just always wondered… I mean, if I was ever… If there was ever a chance that we, the two of us, that is… If we…”
Lorene looked over at the stuttering and drunken Will, trying desperately to say what she had to Doyle roughly an hour earlier. She wondered if that was how truly pathetic she sounded and looked when going there. It couldn’t have been exactly like that, though. Lorene knew she still at least had some vague shred of credibility left in Doyle’s mind. However, she also knew that possibly the familiar road of clichés was the one to walk that evening, her buzz having not completely subsided yet.
Some could have called it a pity kiss, and one that would not nearly have as much of an effect or meaning on the participants as the one earlier. Yet, Lorene Connel didn’t necessarily care at that point. She had felt so numb to the diminishing spirit in everybody she knew and saw on a regular basis, that such a raw unfiltered action didn’t have to mean anything. In fact, it almost felt easier to her upon the initial icebreaker. Brady would be gone, and she wouldn’t have to see Will for sometime after that. Lorene kissed her brother’s best friend’s quivering lips, and soon regretted it, though.
Will was far too drunk to tap into any predetermined concepts of romance or foreplay, but instead took Lorene’s initial soft cue as an invitation to get as grabby as possible. She didn’t mind his hands all over her breasts at first, and soon on her butt, squeezing the denim fabric of her jeans, hoping for some kind of upper level stimulation. Will was inexperienced, though, and with each unknown movement, each hand grazing the parts she wasn’t used to noticing, Lorene became all the more unsettled by it. She didn’t like his forcefulness, his sweaty drunken body on top of hers, the ungrateful erection quickly felt on her left knee and so it wasn’t long before the cut off happened much to Will’s dismay.
Lorene darted up from the couch, muttering a few choice words about being tired and not ready for all the newly discovered items on both their plates. She then rushed up the basement stairs, past her mother cleaning up in the kitchen, and straight to her bedroom, the door cleanly shut behind her. The tears reappeared, only this time, she wasn’t completely sure about their origin. It hadn’t been Will’s fault, and yet she knew it would be impossible to look at him the same way ever again. Even if he was taking a vacation from her tight-nicked lopsided life, it didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be back around for an occasional guest appearance. The thought of it made Lorene’s eyes water even more.
By ten-thirty her pillowcase was drenched, the small trashcan under her desk full of Kleenexes. Lorene began to pull herself slowly back together again, flipping through her high school yearbook, and trying desperately to determine whether any of the smiles and memories would matter much anymore. Possibly everything was eventually reduced to an awkward moment on a basement couch, no clear path to walk following such a happening. Lorene started changing out of the day’s wrinkled clothes, briefly starring out her one window, per chance to see Benji Tate cowardly hiding in the space between his bedroom window and the floor.
Instead, Lorene unexplainably and disappointedly simply saw his closed blinds; the flashing lights from the television set still illuminating some aspect of Benji’s own reliable fortress of solitude. She let the clothes line the floor of her room, before crawling into bed, and turning the light off. Lorene Connel refrained from telling herself that tomorrow was going to be another day. She had already known, for the longest of times, that it was going to be mostly the same.