Now, without further ado, here's Chapter Ten and the beginning of part two of Tristan's Redemption! And feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All flames will, of course, be laughed at and summarily deleted.
By Nicholas Nurse
Chapter Ten: Descent
Darkness fell early in these days so close to Christmas. We'd rolled
the clocks forward almost a month ago and still the early nightfall was somehow
surprising, as though maybe just this one day the sun would stay up just
a little while later before slipping beneath the sea. We had about
a little over a week to go before the big Thanksgiving break and our teachers
were loading us up with unimaginable amounts of work to be completed before
the Christmas break. The heady days of random sunlit cruising were
over. Rain had fallen for most of the previous week and it seemed that
the muted gloom of a California winter had settled thickly over the entire
coast. Ventures to the beach were now replaced by trips inland, to
the huge sprawling malls that sprung up predictably around rows of tract
homes and still-green lawns—oh, this was California, after all—and our nights
were consumed with scribbling out frenzied essays and problem sets.
In a way, I found the work relaxing; it was a purposeful solitude, a way
of shutting out all other distraction and focusing on a single task in silence.
Today was Friday, and I'd been home about an hour; after leaving school,
I'd come directly here. Tonight Taylor had finally convinced me to
go to the gay coffeehouse a ways up the 405 Freeway, in Long Beach; I'd acquiesced
only after he pointed out that this would be Julian's first time going, too,
and I should not miss out on the experience. It'll be a big gay
outing, I thought sourly. I set my thoughts on this evening aside
and concentrated on my English paper on T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men."
There was really no good reason I was doing my homework on a Friday other
than that I liked the excuse for why I wasn't already out and about.
I glanced again at the middle of the poem, which I was analyzing:
The cursor on my computer screen blinked insistently in my face. Fine. Eliot speaks to the emptiness of a life lived without action, the insignificance of existence without purpose, and tells us that it is this that we should most fear. Eliot would contend in later works that the world is full of such people; in his later years, he found solace in religion as a method of staving off the corruption of inaction. I leaned back for a moment. Eliot's words leaped out of the page at me:
I would go tonight. I would not be inactive; I would not let life pass me by. I clicked the "Close" button on my program and turned off the computer. I didn't think I'd meet anyone of note at the coffeehouse, but at least I'd get out for awhile. After all, I wanted to become a bit more familiar with the gay scene, so I'd at least know what I was getting myself into. Some things are just inevitabilities, and after a point it's time to simply embrace that which is unchangeable. With a sigh, I dug out a pair of distressed jeans and a black t-shirt. I'll at least dress the part, I thought as I stepped out of the khakis I had been wearing. I peeled off my shirt and glanced in the mirror, wondering if I would be wise to redo my hair before I left. I finally decided against it and stripped off my boxers, reaching for a fresh pair. Without thought I slipped them on and then realized that it had been at least two weeks since the last time I'd jerked off. I had ample time to do it now if I so chose, but instead I shrugged and slipped on the jeans and t-shirt. I hadn't felt the urge at all. I still didn't. I wondered if I would again.
Trotting downstairs without putting on shoes or socks, I meandered into the library and turned on the sound system. I picked up a book, flipped through a few pages, and set it back down again. I turned off the speakers. Okay, so I was antsy. This is silly. And yet, who could I call? Julian and Taylor were probably getting ready and there was no reason to call them before they came to meet me. Jared was off at swim practice—he'd made the team, much as I knew he would—and Liza was probably waiting to bring him home after practice. Besides, I hadn't talked to Liza much recently. Come to think of it, I hadn't talked to too many people recently. It bothered me that I couldn't remember the last time I'd had a long conversation with Sarah. And Garrett . . . well, Garrett was dead to me. Seeing him in the hallways and in gym was like seeing something ephemeral, something not quite there—my eyes slipped past him and around him without a flicker of recognition or emotion. I felt nothing these days when I thought of him or when I saw him. It was as though every aspect of our intertwined lives had been unraveled and burned away.
Perhaps eating before we left would be a wise idea. I wouldn't want to get anything more than a light coffee drink or perhaps tea when we went to the coffeehouse, and since we'd be leaving right before dinner, I decided food was in order. I found some cold cuts and made a sandwich, but after I'd finished, I found that I didn't really care to eat it. I sat and chewed it mechanically. This happened fairly often, I realized—although I ate, much of what I ate had lost its appeal.
My cell phone rang midway through my sandwich. I flipped it open, glad for the interruption. "This is Tristan."
"Tris, it's Taylor. Do you wanna leave a bit early to get something to eat at Fashion Island?"
"Isn't that a little out of the way?"
"Maybe a bit, but we can just pick up the 405 near UC Irvine."
I wasn't sure I wanted to leave earlier than we'd previously arranged. "It'll take longer than if we were to just take Laguna Canyon Road up through the preserve. Does Julian want to go?"
"He said he's okay with whatever."
I sighed. "Alright, that's fine. It's about time to eat anyhow." I scooped the rest of the sandwich into the trash. "Who's driving?"
"Very funny. Seriously."
"I'm fine to drive," Taylor said. He had an SUV of some sort; I could never quite remember what it was. It guzzled gas; to me, that was all that mattered. I didn't much feel like driving, however, so I decided to leave it in Taylor's hands. "Okay?"
"Fair enough. Come get me, then." I hung up, slipped on dark socks and a pair of ankle-cut boots. I paced in front of the entryway until I saw Taylor's headlights rounding the drive. I went out and hopped in the backseat; Taylor had, at some point, already picked up Julian. That made sense, I realized; Julian, like Sarah, lived close to the school, while I lived some distance up into the hills. Sometimes I wish my parents had sprung for beachfront property, but the view from the hills was marvelous. Besides, there was far less traffic up here. "Howdy, boys," I said as I buckled myself in.
Julian turned around to look at me. "Where do you want to go for dinner?"
I shrugged. "Wherever. I'm not starving. There're a few decent restaurants up by Fashion Island, and if not there, there's always South Coast off the 405."
"You never seem hungry anymore, Tris." Julian looked concerned. He put a hand on my knee. "Look, I . . . "
"Don't say anything, Julian," I said. I made a twirling motion with my finger, indicating that he'd best turn around. With a sigh, he faced front. I saw Taylor raise one eyebrow as he glanced at Julian. "What the fuck was that?" I asked angrily, leaning forward.
"Nothing," Taylor said calmly. He switched lanes. "We're all a bit curious why you've been a dick for the last month, though."
"What the shit are you talking about?" I asked. "Look, if you guys are gonna play twenty questions, let me out of the goddamn car."
"Okay." Taylor pulled off onto the shoulder. "Go ahead." He refused to look back at me.
I hesitated. "Look, just don't ask me any more questions, alright?"
Taylor shook his head. He still didn't turn. Somehow, it pissed me off that he wouldn't even deign to make eye contact with me. "Nope. Either you tell us why you've been avoidant and pissy for the last month or you can walk home. Take your pick."
"Fuck you; drive."
"Listen, if I pull back onto the road, I'll drive in the oncoming traffic lane until you talk."
Julian turned around. "Tris . . . please don't do this. You really have been ignoring everyone. You have no idea . . . remember that day Sarah was upset over that falling out she'd had with Arachnia? She tried to hug you, Tris. Do you remember?" I did. I'd hugged her back; what was the big deal? "Tris, you didn't even lift your arms. You let her put her head on your shoulder. But you didn't even touch her yourself. What the hell is wrong with you?" Julian reached out to touch my knee again; I flinched back. "See, I knew you'd do that. This is stupid."
I was growing angrier by the minute. "Look, I'm serious, guys. I don't know what you're talking about. I'm the same as I've always been."
"I'll be the first person to admit that you're not a terribly friendly human being, or even particularly nice," Taylor said, "but even by your standards, you've been incredibly unresponsive of late."
I was totally nonplussed. "Well, I don't know what to tell—"
Taylor cut me off. "Oh, I talked to Garrett the other day," he said nonchalantly.
"Oh?" I said, genuinely uninterested. "I'm over him entirely, if that's what you're insinuating." I was, too. Even at the mention of his name, I felt nothing.
"Okay, not really. But I did want to see if that would elicit a reaction."
"Sorry to disappoint, but I really don't care."
Julian shook his head. "About anything."
Julian didn't meet my eyes. "You just . . . gave up. You did exactly what I told you not to do. You're shutting out the world, Tris. You're closing your eyes to—"
I groaned. "Do me a favor and shut up with the bullshit, Julian. This world isn't this rosy place you imagine it to be all the time, with your fucking rose-tinted glasses and flowers in your hair. God damn it, Julian, don't you see? It's just life. We live it and then we die and that's it. Oh, and we fuck and make more of us, but I won't be doing that, either, so I may as well just spin my wheels until I inherit my parents' money and then bequeath it to my little nieces and nephews when I die too."
Julian turned around. "Drive, Taylor."
"Not until we—"
"Fucking drive, Taylor. He's not going to talk about it. He's not ready. Just let's go."
It was a silent car that pulled up to Fashion Island twenty minutes later. Dinner passed in silence as well, and when we got back into the car Julian angrily flipped on the radio to drown out the noise of tires on asphalt. Taylor swung around and up toward the 405. I stared out my window the entire time, watching the oil refineries a ways off the freeway; the tallest metal towers spat out gouts of flame that lit up the night and died. We passed them and then Taylor rolled off the freeway and down streets lit up and filled with pedestrians moving back and forth, pretending to be alive. We pulled into a parking lot and Taylor and Julian got out of the car. I stepped out before Taylor could lock the doors; glancing up, I saw where Taylor had met all of his little undergraduate dates. It looked like an ordinary coffeehouse—nothing special, not even the name, The Bean, nothing to mark it as the gay hangout that it was. We went inside and immediately the smell of coffee beans assaulted my nose and the babble of dozens of voices raised in conversation hit me. I glanced around, momentarily taken aback; every table was filled and dozens of boys were standing around chatting in corners, leaning against the windows or the walls. There were boys of every stripe here, from the surfers with their boardshorts and long hair casually leaning against a cabinet to the jocks in sleeveless t-shirts that were huddled around a knot of tables to even a couple of drag queens chatting languidly over coffee gripped in hands with long, painted nails.
Beside me, Julian was just as awed. "Oh my God, Taylor, I had no idea," he said, his eyes wide. "You know what it reminds me of?"
"What?" Taylor stood behind us impatiently; he'd seen all this before.
"That scene in Star Wars, in the Mos Eisley cantina," Julian said. "All it's missing is aliens playing saxophones."
"That's next weekend," Taylor said wryly. "Come on, let's get something to drink and find a place to scope out the crowd." They stood in line, but I lingered, scanning the room. There were guys here that looked like they were younger than me and then there were some that were as much as ten years older. There were the cliques and the obvious groups of friends and the people that just as evidently clustered around one another simply because they didn't fit anywhere else. There were people that looked just like me. It was hard to boil down this crowd and classify them. I think for the first time I realized just how varied the spectrum of homosexuality was; here were people from every walk of life, all of them united by one small facet of being. Ordinarily, people of such diverse backgrounds would never mingle in one place. For a moment, I was overwhelmed with a sense of what it truly meant to be gay, to share a characteristic that indiscriminately crossed all social boundaries. It was ironic that something that chose people so randomly, without prejudice or preference, would be treated with such bigotry and intolerance.
I wandered closer to a knot of boys around my age. They were discussing religion; one of their number, from the sound of things, was a devout Christian, and was reconciling being gay with belief in God. "God doesn't judge until the moment you stand before Him on that final day," he was saying. "So it's really no one's place to judge but God's."
"Bullshit," one of the other guys said. "They all look at us and think we're queers and faggots and that we're all gonna burn in hell. It's all a load of fucking crap."
"But that's what they say," the Christian boy continued. "That's not how God feels—" I stepped away and moved on, circling the room. Julian and Taylor were chatting at a table that they had miraculously snatched from a group of shaven-headed kids. I found myself near a group of skaters comparing arm and knee scars. Two drag queens walked past me. One of them made eye contact and I smiled nervously; it really was hard to tell that there was a boy under all that makeup. I wondered if he had to shave his head to get that peroxide blond wig to fit so snugly. In spite of myself, I was somehow impressed. The drag queens walked out and I leaned against the window, scanning the crowd. Taylor was chatting with a cute black guy that had stopped to talk; Julian was tapping his foot impatiently under the table.
I started to make my way over to break the ice with Julian when a hand grabbed at my arm. "Don't think I've seen you here before," a slightly effeminate voice said in my ear. I turned. The arm was attached to a rather attractive boy perhaps a little older than me. He was dressed in the tightest jeans I'd ever seen and an artfully ripped t-shirt. There was something exotic about the set of his features, his straight brown hair and slightly upturned eyes set above high cheekbones.
"This is my first time here," I said.
"No wonder. I thought someone like you would've made an . . . impression," the boy said with a smile, solidifying his hold on my arm. I flushed slightly. I saw Julian make eye contact with us and then look away without acknowledgment. "Well, you can't just stand in a corner all alone, you know," he said. "How about we find a table in a corner somewhere?"
"Ah—well—my friends are sitting over there—" I started, pointing them out.
"We'll leave them alone," the boy replied, pulling me in the opposite direction.
"What's your name?" I asked, a trifle breathlessly. This was all happening a bit quickly.
"Name?" he said, as though surprised I'd asked. "Seth. Seth Lokine."
"I'm Tristan Eliot," I offered.
"You from around here?"
"Laguna Beach. You?"
"I go to USC. I'm a freshman." We passed an open table, but Seth kept moving; finally, he stopped at one in the corner of the room. Two nondescript preppie-looking types were just filing out onto the patio area. He pushed me down into a seat. "You're in high school?" he asked. God, his gaze was intense.
"Yeah—a junior." When he was quiet, I kept going. His stare unnerved me, and coupled with his general exotic appearance, I was even more nervous. Yet rather than get up and walk away, I found I wanted to keep talking to this Seth Lokine. There was something about him, something that caught and held—"Er—at Laguna Hills High. About thirty-five miles south of here. More or less. Heh. Ah—ever been down there?"
"Once or twice," Seth finally said, fiddling with a bracelet on his arm. I glanced down. It was almost identical to the one Taylor had been wearing the day he met up with us at A Cavern of Crabs. "I don't really go out of the city too much, though. There's not a lot of need to. L.A. really has just about everything, you know. You club?"
"Do you go clubbing. Dancing. At clubs. With music. You know?" He enunciated each word deliberately.
"Uh . . . I'm only seventeen."
"So?" He looked surprised. "What, you don't have a fake?"
"A fake ID? No, I don't—"
Seth snorted. "Boy, you don't know what you're missing," he said. "You dance?"
I was a bit flustered at the barrage of questions. And by those eyes. Shit, but a boy could get lost in those things. "Yeah, some, I guess. At school dances and stuff—"
"Not that kind of dancing. Club dancing. You gotta check out the circuit—oh my god, this is so fuckin' sad, a boy as hot as you and you've never been up to WeHo—"
"Weho?" As hot as me?
"West Hollywood," Seth said, rolling his eyes and making a face that made me feel like I was a ten-year-old in the slow class. "Look, I know some guys that can get you a fake so you can check it out—WeHo's the best place south of Castro, you know."
"Castro?" Maybe he was Cuban or something, what with those strange eyes—I should ask, really; they're very beautiful, whatever they are—
"Oh my God, you don't get out much, do you?" he drawled. "The Castro district. San Francisco. You have heard of San Francisco, right? Big city up north, lots of gay boys running around?"
"I have some passing familiarity with it," I said sarcastically.
"I was raised up there," Seth said. "Listen, kid—what's your name—Tristan? Tris—you mind if I call you Tris? It's easier to remember—let's say you and I go up to WeHo next weekend; I'll set you up with a fake. You gotta see it, kid; it makes this place look like a Bingo convention at an old folks' home. It's off the hook."
"I don't know," I said slowly. "Can I bring a few—"
"Shit, I'm not the DMV," Seth said irritably. "I can get one ID at a time."
"Yeah, maybe," I said, a trifle reluctantly. I'll admit I was interested, sure, but all the way up to Los Angeles—I didn't go up into the city that often, really—but God this Seth was cute . . .
"Listen, here, let me give you my cell number," Seth said, scribbling it down on the back of a piece of paper. It looked like a label of some sort. "Keep it and call me. I'll be here next week too."
"A—alright," I said, putting the paper into my pocket. Would it be rude if I didn't return the favor? Oh, what the hell. "Er—here, here's mine." I jotted it down; Seth didn't even glance at it as he put it into his jacket pocket.
"Awesome. Look, Tris, it was great meeting you," Seth said. He leaned in suddenly and kissed me. On the lips. Hard. Surprised, I was frozen for a moment before more primal parts of me overrode my thought processes. I found myself leaning forward and opening my mouth to his hungry advance. Then, as suddenly as he'd struck, Seth pulled back and, with a grin, pushed back his chair to leave.
"Wait," I gasped, reaching out for his sleeve. I couldn't stand up just yet, not without causing myself great embarrassment. I shifted slightly under the table. "Er—I gotta ask—your eyes—"
Seth laughed. "Oh, I get that a lot. I'm half Japanese. My middle name is Susanuo. Anyway, Tristan Elliot . . . call me." He grinned and winked and walked out.
Call him? I stayed seated until it was safe to stand up again. One part of me, at least, had definitely made up its mind.
* * *
"Okay, what's wrong, Julian?"
"You haven't said a word to me since we found Tris."
"Well, it's not like you spoke to me the whole time you were talking to Spaz."
"His name is Chas, Julian. And I'm sorry."
"Okay, whatever." Julian folded his arms and was silent.
"So . . . did you have fun, Tris?" Taylor asked, turning around briefly to look at me. I don't think he really expected an answer.
I surprised him. "Yeah, that Seth guy . . . was interesting."
"Wow, you're talking to us?"
"Since you asked so nicely, I guess."
"Did you get his number?"
"Yeah. What about Chas?"
Julian spoke up again. "Shut up, guys."
I wasn't entirely used to Julian being in a foul mood, so the car was pretty quiet after that. It was about midnight when Taylor dropped me off in front of my house. The lights were off and everyone was asleep, so I walked quietly up the stairs and stripped for bed. As I got under the sheets, I remembered the kiss Seth had given me before walking away. I remembered his eyes. My imagination took over, and in my mind there was an empty coffeehouse and the twining of bodies. Two weeks of loneliness finally found their answer there in the darkness of my room; everything touched by time flowed out of me like water in my feverish rush of sensation and memory. As I sweated and trembled under the sheets, I realized that a part of me that I had given up for lost was slowly reaching toward the sun. I was through with holding back. A flood was building within me and I was all too glad to let the dams fall away. My legs tensed, then my chest and arms and then that last part of me that throbbed and spasmed and went still. Finally, all at once, it was over. The momentary heat subsided into a warm glow and I fell asleep.
The sun across my face roused me out of slumber. I yawned, stretched, and threw the bundle of Kleenexes into the trash can. Yeah, I'm gonna need a good long shower. Walking to my window, I threw it open and breathed in the chill air. November was always one of my favorite months. I especially loved the period between Halloween and Christmas; the torrent of festivities swept me up in excitement every year. Although it was a chilly morning, the sun painted my naked skin golden. I decided to leave the window open. I found a pair of boxers and slipped them on, then pulled a t-shirt over my head and headed for the bathroom. After I'd showered, I went down into the kitchen and poured myself a bowl of cereal.
My mom was awake and bustling about. "Morning, Tris," she said, cutting a banana into by cornflakes. "Here, have some banana."
"So much for the illusion of choice, eh, Mom?" I asked wryly as she finished cutting the banana. "So where's Dad?"
"He's still asleep." She turned to me. "You look better this morning than you have in a long time, dear."
I was instantly wary, but then calmed down. This was my mother, after all. "What do you mean?"
"Nothing. You just look like you're glad to see the sunrise this morning, that's all."
I wasn't having it. My brains came from somewhere, after all, and I was looking right at the source. "Please, Mom. You're as bad as me for never saying anything without a good reason."
She laughed. "Can't a mother make an innocent comment about her son's demeanor?" She pulled another banana from the bunch. "Would you like a second banana?"
"I'll pass." Fine; if she was going to be coy, I'd play by her rules. "So why are you so peppy this early?"
"I just wake up in a better mood than you. Especially of late." There. She'd done it again.
"Alright, I'll bite," I sighed. "What are you getting at, Mom?"
"I told you, dear," she said with a barely-concealed smile. "Absolutely nothing."
I would get nowhere unless I cracked first, apparently. "Okay, so I've been a bit out of it this last month," I admitted.
"Because of your fight with Garrett," my mother said.
I raised an eyebrow. "And how do you know?"
She laughed and tousled my hair. It felt good. "Mothers know everything." She pulled up a chair and sat down. "Tris, I love you. You know that, right?"
I smiled. "Yes, Mom. I love you too."
"Sometimes the only way to get you to talk is to out-blasé you." I made a face. "And if you ever ask me if I actually said that, I'll deny it to the high heavens." Her face grew serious then. "I know it's been bothering you, Tristan. I was hoping you'd come talk to us about it. You know that we're always here for you. Even if we're sometimes very busy. Your father has been worried about you too, you know. Worrying about his children gives him more gray hairs than running the company does."
"I'm sorry, Mom. I've needed to work it out in my own head, really. I'm better now."
"I know, Tris, and I know you need your space." My mother got a distant look in her eyes. "You're very different from the twins, you know."
I was always interested when she compared us; I liked hearing her perspectives on us. "How so?"
"They wear their hearts on their sleeves," she said simply. "You, on the other hand—"
"Taylor once said I was 'nearly inscrutable,' " I said with a wry grin.
"He is a smart boy," my mother replied. "Always has been. Listen, Tristan. I know you like to work things out on your own. Part of the reason we trust you so much is because of your independence. But no man is an island, and no son of mine needs to feel that he is alone."
"What are you doing in business, Mom?" She gave me a puzzled look. "You just referenced Shakespeare and Donne in almost the same sentence." I raised an eyebrow. "If you're not careful, someone might think you're a closet literati."
My mom laughed. "Alright, Tris, I have to get the twins up and get them ready for soccer practice. Go swim. It's been awhile since you've hit the pool." Just then, the phone rang. "See, that's probably for you. Go on, go get it." I got up to answer the phone. I could feel her eyes on my back, but it wasn't uncomfortable. I had a brief memory in that moment—I was five and the swim instructor was waiting for all of us to dive into the deep end of the pool. I was scared, but I knew my mom and dad were watching me. I wanted to make them proud.
I reached the phone on the third ring and answered it. It was Jared. "Tris! Hi! I called your cell, but you didn't answer—"
For some reason, when I heard Jared's voice, an overwhelming sense of guilt overcame me. "I was busy."
"I'm sorry—should I let you go?"
"No, no, it's alright." It must be moderately important if he'd tried my house phone as well. "What's up?"
Jared's excitement was palpable even over the phone. "Our first big meet is coming up on Monday and I wanted to make sure you're gonna be there!"
"I should be there," I said. I knew he probably wanted me to be more excited, but for some reason I couldn't quite muster up the enthusiasm. I really had been pretty cold the last month or so. "What time does it start at?"
"Three o'clock." Jared was quiet for a minute. "And Tris . . . "
"Er . . . don't laugh at me in my speedo."
"I'll try not to. Listen, I have to run—is there anything else—"
"Er . . . are you busy today? I was hoping maybe we could go swimming for a little while." Jared sounded hesitant; I realized it was because I sounded particularly curt.
"Maybe. I'll call you later." Boy, all of my other friends are getting shorter shrift than this, your sister most of all. You should count yourself lucky. I couldn't say that, of course, but I certainly felt like it. "Bye, Jared. If I don't talk to you today, I'll call you tomorrow or something."
"Oh . . . alright. Hey, I'll be home all day, okay?"
"Alright. Bye." I hung up. I turned around and noticed that my mom had gone. I sat back down at the table and finished my cereal. I wondered when Seth might call. I hoped it was soon.
* * *
As it turned out, Seth did call in the middle of the afternoon. I was sitting in my room when I saw his number, which I had entered into my cell phone on the ride home from The Bean, flash up on my caller ID. Excitedly, I flipped open my phone. "Seth?" I asked.
"Never answer on the first ring."
"It makes you look like you were waiting for the call."
Some of the air had gone out of my tires. "Oh." Great, now I looked like a fool. "Tell you what. Call again, and I won't answer."
Seth laughed. "Unnecessary. Listen, as it turns out, I'm going to be near Laguna Monday night. Want to do something in the afternoon, then?
"Sure," I said, concealing some of my excitement. "What time?"
"Are you free all day?"
"Well, I have school, but then after that I'm free."
"Let's say four o'clock."
"Can do—oh, wait, shit." I had looked at my planner, where I'd scribbled the time of Jared's first swim meet. "Er, I have to go to a swim meet at three. It probably won't be done until about five or six at the earliest."
"Well, my appointment is at eight-thirty in Newport Beach. So I suggest you prioritize."
I thought quickly. "Well, I'm just going to see one of my friends swim. I'll leave after he finishes his heats. That'll be around five. We can catch dinner! How's that? Where do you want to meet me?"
"Dinner?" Seth didn't sound hugely thrilled. "How about if I meet you at your place? Will anyone else be home?"
"Er—no," I said, a tad confused. All the restaurants were on either side of the hill where I lived—coming all the way up here would be out of the way. I said as much.
"Never mind that," Seth said. "Let's just say I'll meet you at your place and we'll play it by ear."
I wasn't going to turn down any opportunity to find out more about this Seth Lokine. "Fair enough," I replied, giving him my address. "Do you need directions?"
"No, I know where that is," Seth replied.
"I thought you didn't come down to Laguna much," I said, surprised. "And this is kind of a hard-to-find area."
"I make it my business to be moderately familiar with some areas of Southern California," Seth replied smoothly. "I can navigate just about anywhere along the beach in L.A. and Orange County."
"Oh. Well, then," I said. "I guess I'll see you at five-fifteen at my house. I'll show you around."
"That would be very nice," Seth replied. "Alright, I have to run. I have errands to do. Listen, I'll talk to you soon, babe."
"Er—yeah," I said. "Talk to you soon." Seth ended the call. I sat there with the phone in my hand, staring at it. What had I just done? I think I'd just set up a date with Seth. Oh my God. A date. I set the phone down and stared out the window; the sun was low in the sky. Monday was going to be an interesting day indeed.