John practically bounded down the stairs, pulling his courduroy jacket on over his striped shirt, as a car honked outside. His father, sitting in a comfortable armchair in the living room as he read the evening paper and smoked his pipe, looked up at him, a small frown on his face.
“We’re going to see the new Marlon Brando movie, Dad,” John explained before he could ask. When his dad continued looking at him, he added, “Me and Dave, that is.”
His words had the desired effect. Dave might have looked like a cool troublemaker on the outside, and he lived with his older brother instead of a parent, but he’d been John’s friend since grade school, and his older brother had served in the war. Plus, he got pretty good grades in school and was rarely late, and John’s dad appreciated punctuality. He turned his attention back to his pipe and paper, saying something about enjoying the movie and not staying out too late, and John practically dashed out the door.
Once he was safely inside Dave’s car (a red Chrysler Newport he’d gotten from his aunt, even if it was five years old and used) did John grin, looking at his friend. Dave, as usual, looked impassive and cool: aviator sunglasses on his face, even though it was seven at night and dark out, black leather jacket, red t-shirt, and blue jeans; John didn’t have to look to know that he was wearing his red hi-tops. They sat there for a moment in silence before Dave pulled out of the driveway and on to the street. “What’d you tell your dad?”
John laughed. “The truth, dumbass! That we’re going to the movies!” When the blonde made a disapproving ‘hmm’ sound, John frowned. “We are going to the movies, right?”
“It’s a nice night, Egbert,” Dave said calmly as he turned the corner, heading in the opposite direction from the movie theatre. “It’d be a real waste spending it in a movie theatre.”
“I don’t want to lie to my dad, man,” John said. He turned to look in the backseat, where a brown paper bag sat on the seat. When Dave turned the car around another corner, there was a distinct clink of glass bottles from the sack. “That better not be beer,” the black-haired teen warned, turning back around. Dave continued driving, no change in his expression. After a few minutes, during which they drove down a road that John didn’t quite recognise, he finally spoke.
“There’s a really great view of the whole town from the ridge out here,” he said. “Besides, isn’t it super masculine to spend a Friday night in the middle of summer? Sitting outside under the stars with another guy, smoking a pack of Camels--”
“Tobacco’s gross, Dave, I’ve tried my dad’s pipes and--”
“I know you’re in love with Marlon Brando and his manly charms, John, but it’s not going to kill you to wait a couple more nights before you see it.”
John punched his best friend in the shoulder. “I’m not in love with Brando, you know that.”
“You’ve seen everything he’s ever touched since we were twelve. You’re a little in love with the guy.” Dave parked the car on a grassy hillside and leaned back with a cocky smirk. “You’re lucky half the guys in America are infatuated with his rugged, mumbling mug, or someone’d think that you’re a faggot.” There was a strange bitterness to his words, almost imperceptible to anyone else, but to John’s ears, it was pretty damn obvious. Before he could say anything, Dave had slipped out of his seatbelt and out the door, walking up to the top of the hill with the paper bag in one hand. Cursing under his breath, John struggled to get out of the car and to catch up with the taller teen.
They walked up the hill in relative silence, John staring up at the star-studded summer sky above them. When they reached the top of the hill, Dave elbowed John in the ribs, nodding down at the twinkling landscape below them.
“Look at that, Egbert,” he says in that coolkid voice of his. “Down there, every guy our age’s at the movies, parked and trying to get lucky with some broad, or dreaming about getting lucky.” He sat down on the grass, one knee straightened out in front, the other bent, arms supporting his weight, and John followed suit. “And here we are, out in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere, with a view that people would kill for, like one of those panoramic views in the movies.” He pulled two bottles of Coca-Cola out of the bag, popped the caps off them both, and handed one to John, who took it with a muttered ‘thanks’. There was a momentary silence as they both took hearty swigs from their sodas. The instant Dave swallowed, he continued talking as if there’d never been a pause. “Someday, there’ll be a huge development of houses up here. Little homes for all-American families with dads who smoke pipes and talk about their glory days playing football, moms who cook like Betty Crocker and have bodies like Marilyn Monroe, and a couple of kids that play sports and look great and make their parents proud. Cookie-cutter portraits of Ozzie and Harriet right there, man.” He took another swig from his bottle. “Whole city’ll expand up here. Au revoir to this pretty little view, time to make way for Ricky, Susan, and apple pie.”
John grimaced, taking a second drink from the bottle and hating the way his teeth tried to get in the way of his soda. “If the Russians don’t nuke us first, man,” he commented. Dave laughed, the same easy way he did whenever John started going on and on about movies and how great it was to have a television in his house. An honest, completely genuine laugh, not the sort of dry chuckle he gave when he was busy trying to be a cool kid.
“Yeah, man. If the Russians don’t fucking nuke our asses first. Or when movie actors start running the country. Completely probable, John. Good job.”
John snorted, giving him a hard shove, and they spent the next few minutes shoving and punching each other before settling back to watch the scenery around, below, and above them.
It was near ten when they pulled up in front of John’s house, smelling of grass and summer air, exhausted from a night of talking and, occasionally, tussling for the hell of it. They sat there for a few minutes, the engine idling as they sat in comfortable, tired silence.
“Better than seeing ‘On the Waterfront’, right?” Dave asked, and John couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not. He went with the safe option: making a joke out of it.
“I dunno, Dave, I could’ve gone for a little kissing action,” he teased, grinning at his best friend. There was a contemplative ‘hmm’ from his friend, and, a split second later, Dave leaned forward and kissed him full on the lips.
The dark-haired teen tensed up at first This was just so new and just. Wow.
Okay, sure, John had kissed a couple of girls in his life, and he sure as hell wasn’t a homosexual (because that was wrong, everyone knew that, it just wasn’t okay), but he’d bet his box of magic tricks that kissing Dave felt a hell of a lot better than kissing any girl. He pressed back, eagerly, and for a minute, they’d kissed each other, lips kissing like in a Humphrey Bogart movie, like they were a pair of desperate, secretive lovers (and this was secretive, because they were doomed if anyone caught them). Just as John’s tongue slipped out and brushed Dave’s lips, Dave pulled away, pushing John back by his shoulders.
“Whoa, dude. Gotta keep it cool, all right? Don’t want no girls to come by and get their little hearts broken.” The blonde sounded as nonchalant as ever, but John could read between the lines, could tell that Dave was just as nervous as he was, especially at the idea of being caught. So he shrugged Dave’s hands off his shoulders, grinning like nothing had happened.
“Course not,” he agreed. “What with you being such a ladykiller and all.”
There was another pause, and John took it as his cue to leave the car. As he opened the door and started to slide out of his seat, he felt a hand grab his wrist. Turning around, he saw Dave looking at him, and he had to fight back the urge to laugh, he looked so damned worried, the same way he’d looked when he’d gotten a letter in second grade saying that his brother’s regiment was going to the front lines.
“We’re going up to the ridge again tomorrow night, right?” John asked, quirking one eyebrow. It was as if the words had worked some sort of magic on Dave; his face reverted back to its usual cool facade almost instantly, and he released John’s wrist with a nod.
“Right. Seven okay?”
John nodded, easing the rest of the way out of the car and shutting his door. Dave drove off with another nod of his cool blonde head, leaving John standing in the driveway, conflicted, but happy as hell. As long as they didn’t get caught, things were going to be fine. Things were going to be just fine.