�There was a time not so long ago�� he thinks, and then places the pen silently on the maple desk in front of him. What about that time? It wasn�t so long ago, after all; shouldn�t the memories be clearer, less foggy? The memories were dreams now, rich and vivid upon awakening, but fading as he got closer to pen and paper.
If it weren�t for her, none of this would matter. He could be spending his days lying on the ratty and worn couch, playing his brother�s video games and staying stoned in a rich haze of Californian Long Hair. Once a week he and the guys could hop into whoever�s car had gas, cruise down to the beach and catch the rays and the waves, drinking enough cheap tequila to kill a small nation before noon. But no � she had to come into the picture, her milky skin and lithe fingers that played him like a harp and crystalline blue eyes� Those eyes, so like stars that sometimes he thought he might go blind staring into them, knowing full well that she couldn�t see him watching her longingly but that she could feel his gaze, piercing her, tracing straight to and through her core. He had never seen anything as clearly � certainly not in the last ten years, since Ernie had introduced him to the soothing powers of the beer bong.
And she knew, and he knew she knew, and it was all part of a maddening circle that spiraled through his brain, winding deeper and deeper, threatening to bore through to his feet if he dwelled there too long. But part of him couldn�t help it, just couldn�t avoid wondering what it would be like to touch her arm, to trace the curves of her dancer�s body with his calloused fingers, to kiss her mouth, softly�
The sound of Henry�s car door slamming shut snapped him awake from his daydream. Henry, home again at sunrise from another long night of pounding Jagermeister and cheap beer at the roadhouse he called home, probably wearing fresh bruises or a busted lip like some badge of honor, another night wasted. Henry, who would pass out (if he was lucky) or want to start yet another fight (if he wasn�t).
His hand reached instinctively for the lamp, but paused as he realized that it was too late; even with the sun brightening the sky enough to give the birds their wake-up call, even as many copies of the world as Henry was probably seeing, he would have seen the late, would have known that he was still up, dreaming about her.
The door opened quietly, a breath in the sticky summer dawn, and shut with an angry clap that startled him firmly into the here and now. Gone are thoughts of her, of the way her feet seem to never touch the floor when she walks, replaced by the cold hard sting of Henry�s drunken fist. He could slump over on the desk, the voices say, pretend that he fell asleep after a long night of reading, but then Henry would have the element of surprise on his side, as well as size.
The refrigerator opened, and the familiar clink of the night�s last beer kept the routine going. Any minute now, Henry would walk past his room turning off the hall light, then return, three heavy footsteps echoing for hours in his head, and tell him quietly
�She asked about you tonight.�
He was dreaming. He had fallen asleep on the desk after all, and was now dreaming of a better place, a better time.
��dja hear me?� Henry�s slur is different � just as strong as normal, but calmer, subdued, almost accepting. ��liz�beth asked about you. Wanted to know how you are. When you�re coming back to see her.�
He thought the moment might last forever.