Harold bounced his van up onto the curb and tapped the horn twice. Maggie, across the street at the bus stop, shook her head. He rolled down the window and waved her over. She shook her head again and pointed up the street. Harold shouted, “Come on, I’m heading your way.”
She ran across the street and said, “If my dad sees you picking me up, he’ll kill me.”
“I was driving by and thought you’d want a ride. Sorry.”
She went around the front of the van and climbed in. “Just go.”
Harold shifted the van into gear and then put his hand on her thigh, just under the hem of her kilt. Maggie shifted toward the door and pulled down the sun flap. She looked at herself in the mirror and put on a new layer of lip gloss and added some more eye shadow to her already black eyelids. Harold told her she looked great and reached around the back of her neck to give it a rub. Her shoulders hunched. He said, “So what happened to you last night?”
“My grandma was over for dinner and my dad’s really cracked down on me being on the phone after eight.” She undid the top two buttons of her shirt.
Harold leaned back to get a better angle and said, “I was kind of hoping you’d come over tonight. You could tell your folks you’re staying at Allison’s again.”
“I actually have plans. A friend’s party.”
“Oh cool, I can drive us there?”
“I don’t know, it’s sort of just kids from school.”
“Give me a call before to let me know?”
“I’ll be over at Allison’s. But I’ll try.”
She told him to drop her off a couple blocks away from the school so her teachers wouldn’t see her getting out of his van. He leaned over for a kiss that landed on her cheek and tried to get his hand back on her thigh. She slipped out the door and said, “I got to get to class.”
Harold’s mom banged her foot on the floor above him and shouted, “Har-reee. Phone! Har-reee. Phone!”
He picked up and shouted at the ceiling, “I got it, Mom.”
“Har-reee. Phone.” She banged the floor again.
“Mom! I got it.”
He spoke into the phone. “Maggie?”
She said, “It’s so weird you have a landline.”
And from upstairs, “Har-reee,” with more banging.
“I’ve got it!”
Then his mom’s voice, on the phone now, asked, “Har-reee. You there?”
He said into the phone, “Yes, Mom, thank you.”
“You need to cut the lawn.”
“I will, Mom, tomorrow. Bye.”
Maggie said, “Allison’s sister got called into work. Would you mind booting for us?”
“Well, I sort of made other plans when I found out you weren’t free.”
“Oh, that’s fine, we can ask someone in front of the liquor store.”
“No, no, that’s okay. I’ll come down.”
Harold drove down to the coffee shop. Maggie, Allison, and a few of the guys from their class were sitting around the patio. Harold got out of his van and Allison said, “Hi, Har-reee!”
“You get that lawn mowed?”
Maggie hit Allison’s shoulder and told her to shut up and Allison laughed.
There was nowhere for Harold to sit. He grabbed a chair from inside and hovered with it, waiting for Allison to shift over and make room for him. Matt, one of the guy friends, asked everyone to move down for Harold. He dropped his chair in and said, “Thanks.”
Then the guys were talking about a show their band had booked at the community centre and how they had a lead on a place they could play in the city.
Harold said, “Yeah, well my band is thinking about going on tour again pretty quick. You can only play the George and Dragon so many times, you know?”
Allison asked, “Where was that last tour to again, Harry?”
“We went down the coast to Oregon.”
Matt said, “Cool, man.”
And Allison said, “Yeah, cool. When was that again?”
Before Harold could answer, Maggie said, “Why don’t we go get the drinks.”
Maggie and Allison each gave Harold a ten for some cider and the guys pooled together to come up with enough for a case and a mickey of whisky. Harold got up. When no one else did, he said to Maggie, “You coming?”
Allison said, “We’re still waiting for a couple of people, so we got to stay here.”
Harold tried to be cool but made it clear he wasn’t going to run their errand alone. Matt volunteered to go along. There was really no way for Harold to say no.
They drove the three blocks to the liquor store. Harold turned up the stereo and Matt asked him what they were listening to. Harold told him and he said, “Cool, old school.” And then said it sounded like some band Harold had never heard of.
“More like those guys sound like this.”
Back at the coffee shop, Harold asked them what the deal was with the party. Matt said, “Oh, it’s just this kid whose folks are out of town.”
And Allison said, “But it’s going to be small, just friends. The neighbours ratted on him last time.”
“But you should totally come along,” Matt said.
And Allison said, “Isn’t it weird for you to go to a high-school party?”
Maggie kept quiet and Harold eventually said, “Well, there’s a show I might check out later tonight anyways.”
One of the other guys started talking about a show in the city he’d gotten a fake ID for. Matt snuck some whisky into his coffee and everyone started talking about bands Harold didn’t know. Harold tried to get Maggie’s attention but she kept looking intently at whoever was talking. After a while, Matt said they should all go to the park and have a few pre-party drinks there. Harold jumped in and said, “There’s always cops checking the park, we should go for a drive around the lake.”
Allison wasn’t into that, but Matt and the other guys were, so they all ended up in the van, heading out of town on the logging road that led to the far end of the lake. Harold drove them to one of the little beaches and parked.
By the time Harold got a beer from the back of his van, all the guys were sitting on a log near the beach and Maggie and Allison were on a boulder beside them. The only spot left was right on the end of the log. Harold sat and held his hand out to Maggie, then let it drop.
Someone brought out some weed and passed it around; Matt took a swig of the whisky. Maggie and Allison passed their cider back and forth. Harold got up and stood behind Maggie. He put his hands on her shoulders. She looked up at him and smiled. He bent down and kissed the top of her head. Allison said, “Come pee with me,” and she and Maggie went off to the woods.
Harold sat on their rock and Matt came over and sat beside him. He took another sip of whisky. Harold said, “Watch it with that.”
Matt said, “It’s cool, man. I heard Keith Jones from the Who used to drink three bottles a day.”
“That’s Keith Moon. Moon the Loon. And you know he died, right?”
“Yeah. He drove his car into a swimming pool.”
“He did do that, but I don’t think that’s how he died.”
Harold shrugged and took a shot. One of the other guys said that his older brother went to school with Harold and used to really like his band back in the day. He asked, “You guys got any shows coming up?”
“We’re sort of looking for a new guitarist these days. Zach quit on us.”
“Oh yeah, man,” Matt said. “Zach’s my guitar teacher. He knows, like, every Eagles song.”
“Yeah, that’s the reason we’re looking for a new guitarist.”
Maggie and Allison returned from the woods. They sat on the log with the guys and Maggie started laughing at something one of them said.
They finished their drinks and when Harold got back from the van with another Allison said, “We should get going.”
“I just opened this,” Harold said.
“We’ve got to get to the party.”
Harold wanted to argue but then everyone else agreed. He got in the van and Matt got into the passenger seat; the girls sat in the back. Harold kept an eye on their whispering while Matt told Harold about how he was trying to learn the guitar solo from “Comfortably Numb” and asked him questions about gear.
They pulled up in front of a house with kids all over the lawn. Allison said, “Thanks, Dad” and jumped out the side door with the guys.
Harold said, “Hold on, Maggie. Can we talk a minute?” Allison stopped and Harold added, “Alone.” Allison waited for Maggie to say it was okay before she left. Harold turned around in the driver’s seat and said to Maggie, who was still in the very back bench seat, “What’s going on?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I feel like you don’t want me here.”
Maggie looked out the window. She said, “Well, you’re not really invited.”
“No, I mean at all. Like you only want me to drive you around and pick things up for you.” She didn’t say anything, just stared out the window and bit her lip. He kept on, “It makes me feel used.” He turned around and watched her in the rear-view mirror. She was still looking at the house. He said, “Why don’t you just go.”
She got out of the van and he did too, meeting her around the side. He said, “Look, I know your friends don’t get us. They think it’s weird. But it’s okay, you know. You’re a lot more mature than any of them.”
He put his arm around her and walked toward the house. When they got to the front door, he put a hand on each of her cheeks and pulled her face into his. She opened her mouth a little bit, and he let a hand fall down to her chest. He stepped back and said, “Look, have a good time, okay.”
Harold watched her go into the house. Matt came out. He said, “Hey man, you decided to come in. Cool.”
“I was just going to head out.”
“You should hang out, man. No one will care.”
They went into the kitchen. Matt opened up cabinets until he found a bottle of vodka. He drank from it and asked Harold if he wanted any. Harold didn’t see why not. He took a long drink.
Later, they were standing beside the stereo and Matt was saying that all the kids at his school listened to the same vapid, commercial bullshit and that people like him and Harold knew what music should sound like. Harold was mostly looking around the room for Maggie. Someone came over and asked Harold if he was a cop. Matt laughed and said, “No man. This is Harold. He’s cool.” Harold took another drink of vodka.
Then they were in the backyard and Harold was telling Matt about how much he liked Maggie and how he knew that she felt the same, but he always felt like Allison wanted him to go away probably because she was jealous or something. Matt was nodding and agreeing and telling Harold how rad he was and then Allison and Maggie came out the back door. Allison said, “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Harold said, “Matt invited me in.”
“Yeah. Harold’s my boy.” Matt slapped Harold on the back. Harold nodded.
“Maggie doesn’t want you here.”
Harold asked her, “Is that true?”
Matt said, “You guys are wrong about Harold, he’s cool!”
“Wrong about me?”
Allison said, “He means Maggie thinks you’re a creep.”
“She wouldn’t say that.”
“Tell him, Maggie.”
When Maggie didn’t say anything, Allison said, “She doesn’t want to see you anymore.”
“Is that true?”
“No, it’s just . . .”
She didn’t finish the sentence or look at him, but everyone else was looking and listening. Harold said, “Come on, let’s talk,” and took her hand. He pulled her through the party and out the front door. She didn’t resist much.
When they were past the last people on the lawn, near Harold’s van, he spun around and grabbed her shoulders. “Is it true?”
And then Allison was there. She pushed Harold and said, “Get off her.”
Harold ignored her. He opened the sliding door of his van and told Maggie he wanted to talk to her in private, and said to Allison, “Leave us alone.”
Allison said, “No fucking way she’s getting into your pervert van alone. She doesn’t want to talk to you.”
Maggie was crying. Harold took a couple of steps toward her and said, “Come on, we can talk this out.”
He reached out for her, but Allison got between them again. He said, “I just need one fucking minute without you here, could you please just fuck off.” Then, in a gentler voice to Maggie, “Come on.”
Maggie finally looked at him. “No.”
Allison said, “Told you.”
Harold yelled, “Would you fuck off, you fucking cunt.”
Allison punched Harold. She wound up way behind her back and followed through with all her weight. It was hard enough that Harold fell backward onto the ground. He sat there for a minute, then checked his nose for blood. Maggie pushed by Allison and asked if he was okay. He said, “I’m fine.” Then to Allison, “Real fucking mature.”
She said, “Whatever, I’m sixteen.”
Maggie helped Harold to his feet. He pulled her close and said, “I knew you cared” into her hair. Then he held her at arm’s length, looked into her eyes, and said, “I love you.”
Maggie said, “I don’t want to see you anymore.”
Allison grabbed Maggie’s arm and began pulling her toward the house. Maggie looked back at Harold and whispered, “I’m sorry.” Allison smirked.
Harold stood alone in the driveway and watched the door close behind them.