This is a collection of mostly isolated moments, strung together to piece together a larger picture...
A moment at home:
Jeff Catalano ducks his head into the hallway, "Hey! _ Jordan!"
From his room Jordan grunts, "What?"
"Don't talk to me that way."
Jordan gets this isn't going somewhere good and he steps out into the hallway, "What'dya want?"
Jeff walks past him without looking at him, "Get your car out of the garage, I need to get in there."
"I'm in the middle of -"
"Okay, just -" His father cuts him off, he doesn't want to hear any excuses.
"You know, you don't listen."
"I said 'okay'."
"Not when you should of."
Jordan turns and grumbles, "Alright."
"What was that?"
Angry, Jordan shuts the exchange down, "Nothing."
Jeff does not let it go, griping instead, "That car has been nothing but -"
"What?" Jordan cuts him off. "You gonna drive me to school? To work?" The thought that Jeff would be complaining about Jordan's car is crazy to him. Jordan having his own way to leave the house is the best thing that happened to them.
Stuffing his keys in his pocket and heading out to his car Jordan mutters, "Yeah. Okay."
"Kid, watch yourself."
"Or what?" Jordan dryly retorts.
"Get out of here," his father says with cool aggression. "I don't want to see you."
Jordan turns and walks away. "Fine."
"Hey. Hey!" Jordan turns back and faces him, waiting blankly for what's coming his way. "Things haven't changed - this is my house. You don't get to stay out all night, coming home drunk-"
"Yeah," Jordan grumbles as he turns round and pushes open the screen door, "that's just you."
"Watch the mouth kid."
"Yeah." Jordan lets the door slam behind him.
A moment at school:
In the Liberty hallways Associate Principal Wilson passes by Jordan and his buddies as he patrols the halls. The bell has already rung and he addresses the cluster of boys with humor, directing them to get to class with casualness backed by authority.
"Gentlemen. Gentlemen, start you engines," he prompts them. "And I mean those words loosely. Especially with you Trudenowski."
"Yeah," Shane chuckles. Loving that he's known by the administration for his reckless driving.
"Okay, move it along. Your classes are waiting for you." The boys kind of move down the hall, but still pretty aimlessly. They like Wilson well enough but that doesn't make them anxious to get to class any sooner.
"Hey Wilson," says Nate. "Hey, loan me that tie."
"Yeah man, it's sharp."
"Yeah?" says Wilson, walking with them, "Where you goin' sportin' a tie?"
"Well," steps in Shane, "he's got a date so," he proceeds pulling the AP's leg, "the bathroom in the bowling alley, or the back row of the half-off movie theater. Or there's-"
"So, keeping it classy?" nods Wilson.
"Always," Shane says, play shoving Nate. The boys are boisterous and clowning, except for Jordan, who's pretty much been walking a silent steady line the whole time. He's not sullen, he's just doing his thing.
Wilson smiles and head nods at Jordan, "Hey kid."
Jordan stops walking and turns, "What?" He's not unfriendly, 'cuz most of the time he's pretty cool with Wilson, but he's blunt now and to the point. He doesn't want to be called 'Kid.' He doesn't want to be buddies with the AP. He doesn't want to be noticed or called out, or anybody's special project. All Jordan wants is to keep his head down, get out, and have some laughs with his friends while he does.
"Oh, that's right," Wilson nods. The boys reach their classroom, salute the AP and then enter the room. "Hey, Catalano," Wilson jerks is head to the side, "hang back a sec." Jordan doesn't enter the classroom and he does hang back, but he's looking at Wilson dully, jutting his jaw to the side, waiting him out. Jordan looks up at the ceiling, slouches, then looks back at the administrator. "Piece of advice?" says Wilson. Jordan's expression indicates that he knows when adults ask this the advice's coming regardless of his response. "Don't be in such a hurry. When you're older, high school won't seem that bad. Listen, I know you're already working, and are pretty self-sufficient generally - and that's probably making this place seem pretty silly to you, all I'm saying is, I think when you get a little older, and figure out some stuff, you won't take yourself so seriously, and having time in your life that's just," he gestures to replace his lack of words, "light, and happy will be okay. It's not weak to be happy." Jordan looks blankly on. "Have a girlfriend, have a life. Maybe get married, have a wife." Jordan smirks, amused that this guy's resorted to rhyming.
"Where are you getting this?" As far as Jordan knows, he's not walking around with a cloud over his head. There's nothing he's putting out there that marks him as depressed or with a chip on his shoulder. Nothing he's doin' that's anything different from his friends. What's Wilson on about now?
"Never mind," Wilson smiles in spite of himself when faced with Jordan's apathy. "Shut up, get out of here."
Turning back into the room, Jordan pauses once more to say, "You don't have to work so hard you know." He means him. He means, 'Stop looking out for me.'
"Yeah," Wilson shakes his head, "don't know what got into me. Forget it, get to class."
The chance meeting:
In the evening of a Friday night, Jordan's temporarily left Angela at his house while he went to pick up Shane from his job at the neighborhood hardware store. She looks up from her homework when the front door opens and through it Jordan's father unexpectedly enters. He walks past her into a bedroom to change shirts, comes out only halfway dressed, walks into the kitchen pulling on his fresh shirt and grabs a beer from the fridge. Coming back into the living room he opens his beer then stops and looks at her. She looks up from where she's seated at the sofa. He stares, she feels awkward.
"Hi," she offers momentarily.
Taking another sip he looks her over, "And you are?"
He nods, "Girl on the machine." Angela doesn't make a verbal answer to this, and he looks her over again, sizing her up. "He around?"
She tucks her hair, "He'll be right back."
Jordan's father picks up the remote to the TV and with it indicates to Angela he'd been planning on watching something. "You mind?" Angela shakes her head and returns her attention to her books, which doesn't escape his notice. He sits on the larger sofa, leans back and flips through the stations until he finds a sports program. Angela tries to continue reading her book, Jordan's father lights a cigarette. They ignore each other.
Presently the front door opens again and Jordan enters a little agitated – he's seen his father's car outside and is uncomfortable now about having left Angela behind. Jordan looks at Angela who'd looked up the second the door had opened, then turns his attention to his father; Angela's eyes follow his. Behind Jordan stands Shane, not particularly thinking anything about anything, just waiting it all out to start his Friday night.
"Hey…" Jordan says cautiously. It's not clear whether it's to Angela or to his father.
"Hey there," says Jeff. Angela is unsure whether this greeting is just that or if it was meant to be cutting. She studies him as he continues speaking to his son. "Met the girl." Jordan moves further into the house. "She reads."
Jordan glances at his father, crosses to Angela, then picks up her bag and lightly tugs her off the sofa, "Com'on." To his dad he says a quick, "Later." Shane, still in the doorway, waves a quick salute to Jordan's father before he turns and heads down the front steps as Angela and then Jordan follow.
When the door shuts and they're crossing the yard, Jordan speaks up, "Sorry. About that. Him."
Angela watches the aggravation in his face, "It's fine."
"I didn't think he'd be around."
"It was fine," she assures him.
Jordan isn't especially worried about anything in particular, but he hadn't expected this, and he's just a little anxious about her being around him. Or, him being around her. "He say anything?"
Watching him, she slowly shakes her head, "Mm, mm."
"It's cool. We're all cool," Shane interjects. "Angela survived a Catalano encounter." Placing his hands good-naturedly on Jordan's shoulders and kind of shaking him, Shane leans into Jordan so that he hears but Angela necessarily does not, "Relax. Look, so he's not a good guy, he's not a monster. Everything's good."
A night spent in:
Angela and Jordan are hanging at his house, just lounging in the dark room lit only by the flickering TV, which they are not actually watching. The front door opens and Jordan quickly looks over, Angela follows his gaze. Rather than the mild irritant of the intrusion of an unexpected friend, as is pretty typical, Jeff, Jordan's father, has come home early. Jeff enters the room and without bothering to turn on a light he passes through to the kitchen. Stiffening, Jordan only watches, and Angela follows suit. From the kitchen Jordan hears the distinct 'clink, clink' of ice dropping into a glass. It's not water that will follow.
Jordan exhales, "I'll take you home."
She looks at him, "Do you disappear every time he shows up?" Disinterested in talking about it, he tugs her off the couch and grabs his keys. Angela says nothing more about it but she thinks, as she follows him out the door, how strange it is to live in a house that is so clearly not your home.
On an unusually warm afternoon after a long day at school Jordan's taken Angela back to his place to fool around. Cozy on his bed in the warm room it does not take long before they both drift asleep. At some point as they nap curled into one another, Jeff Catalano passes by the partially open door to his kid's room and sees someone's in bed with his son.
As Angela awakes gradually she snugs against Jordan for a bit before she reanimates. She kisses his ear. And his neck, and pushes hair back from his forehead. He stirs, open his eyes, and slowly focuses on her face.
She smiles at him and speaks softly, "I gotta get home." He nods, lays with his eyes closed, then rises. Grabbing his boots in one hand he takes her hand in his other and walks her down his hallway through the kitchen to the back door and to his car.
When Jordan returns from taking Angela home he walks from the back door down the hallway toward his room, but his father, who's sitting at the kitchen table calls out to him.
"Who was that you had over here." Jordan pauses. He hadn't realized his dad had seen Angela was there. He hesitates about what he wants to say. "Same girl that was over here the other day?"
Jordan's not sure of the 'right' answer, just that his preference would be not to answer at all. "_ Yeh."
"She got a name?"
Wary of where this is going, Jordan eyes his father as he answers, "_ Angela."
Leaning back in his chair he asks, "What's her story?" Jordan shifts from one foot to another. "You know 'er long?"
"Uh," Jordan scratches his head, "October?"
"Long term!" Jeff laughs. Jordan's eyes roll; he hates to be patronized. His father takes a drink from his mug as he asks dryly, "She the one?"
Jordan scoffs, and smiles in spite of himself, "The 'one'?"
"Sure. The girl you stop seeing other girls for. Or," he pauses to take another drink, "tell yourself you're going to anyway."
Jordan's dispassionately incredulous about this, "You do that?"
"Sure. It's even good. Now and then. Look," he gestures, "play the field, nuthin' wrong with that…" Swallowing another sip of his coffee he amends this with, "Course, there can be more than one 'one'."
This sentiment from his father does nothing in the way of surprising Jordan. His old man is full of bad behavior cleaned up with charming but thoroughly empty words. Still Jordan feels obliged to validate him, "Right."
"You should bring 'er round."
Dryly, if not suspicious, Jordan asks, "Why?"
"Cuz I said." Though it could have, this did not come off as a threat. Jeff notices Jordan looking at him challengingly, "What? There a reason you think that's a bad idea?" Jordan's conflicted, hesitant. He's deliberating what course to take: say 'alright' and he's pretending they're something they're not, not to mention dragging Angela Chase into it; turn him down, who knows where that'll take 'em. His father sees this - his son suspicious, ill at ease just to talk; he takes another drink, leans back, and sighs, "I never wanted to be my father"
"You never really wanted to be my father," Jordan answers back. Jeff looks Jordan square in the eye, stoically holding the gaze, not betraying any emotion. In time he rises, exhales, pulls two beers from the fridge and tosses a can to Jordan. Jordan catches it, still watching his dad - not fully won over.
Popping open his can, Jeff crosses the room, "How's work?"
Still watching his father, holding the unopened beer, not uneasy, but not at ease, Jordan answers. "'s fine."
"Should I ask about school?"
"If you want." After a moment Jordan decides to cave and give him something a little more, "It's fine." Jeff nods. One eye still on his father, Jordan finally opens the beer and brings it to his lips.
Jeff attempts a joke, "What'd ya do, steal the tests?" Jordan's mildly irritated by this, but doesn't really show it. As per usual, he just lets it slide. His dad continues, talking casually into his beer before taking another drink, "Stole a few tests in my day." He looks at Jordan, "Still got the girls doing your homework?" Jordan looks at his father. "Didn't think I knew 'bout that?" Jordan's blank stare does not alter. "Hey," Jeff shrugs his rationalization, "what they give, feel free to take." Jeff swishes his beer can in a small semi-circle, "Not saying you don't have it wired. It's a good thing to have wired - women." Adding for his own good measure he says, "Could be all you got."
Speaking into his beer Jordan's compelled to point out, however 'wired' his father seems to think he's got women, he is "Twice divorced."
But Jeff is universally unaffected by his stats, "Not my fault. And marriage's great, but no one said it's sp'sed to last forever." About Angela he says, "Stick it out till it's not worth it." He finishes his beer and tosses the can into the kitchen sink. "I'm headin' out." From down the hall he calls back, "Jordan. Pick up more beer." Jordan watches his father leave, takes a look at the beer in his hand, takes a drink, then rolls his eyes, and shuts them.
A couple weeks later, Jordan's father enters the kitchen where Jordan's sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal for dinner. "Hey." Jordan doesn't really acknowledge him. "Kid." Jordan stops eating and does look at his father, but still doesn't say anything. "How's it going?" Jeff's attempt at casual conversation doesn't quite mesh with his abrupt demand for acknowledgment. He pulls up a seat and commandeers his boy's coffee. "Still seeing that girl?"
"What girl?" Jordan knows very well who his girl is, but his father could mean anyone. Least he thinks he's being funny pretending he could mean anyone.
Loving that this his how his son thought to answer this question, Jeff chuckles, "'What girl'?"
Not getting what his father's after, Jordan's eyes narrow, "How come?"
"Are you?" Jeff asks without giving Jordan anything more. Wordlessly, Jordan indicates that he is. Glancing sideways Jeff pointedly asks, "She ever over here when I'm home?"
"She's never over here at all."
"Uh huh," he's not buying it.
"So," Jeff gestures, "bring her by."
Laughing at his kid he asks pointedly, "What? You scared?"
Pushing himself back from the table, Jordan's response is dry and sarcastic, "Yeah, that's it.
"That's cute," his father patronizes.
At school under the bleachers with his friends at lunch, Jordan pulls Angela away and leans in, "Listen, I need for you to come to my place tomorrow."
"Okay. Any reason?"
"My dad wants you over."
"Really? _ Three weeks ago you were all out of shape when I was in a room with him for ten minutes; now you want me to come over and hang out."
"Well, I'll be there."
"How come? I'll do it. But, why?"
"He's trying something new."
Biting his thumb, Jordan takes a stab at it, "Not being an a-hole." Gesturing, he says, "Look, you don't have to. It's just-"
"I'll do it." Jordan never asks her to do anything. Well... But he never asks her to do something for him, not like this, specifically not something to do with his father. Of course she'll do it. He looks at her, and she tells him, "It's not a big deal."
With mild humor Jordan points out, "Well, you don't know 'im." She smiles.
"You had to meet my parents."
Smiling back at her Jordan's compelled to tell her, "Not exactly the same thing."
"Well, anyway." She shifts her weight, readjusts her backpack straps, twists back to look at the main building, scratches her head and tucks her hair. "How do you feel about it? His… new approach?"
Jordan shrugs, "He wants to be something closer to nice, I'll play along." He looks at her, but looks away when he sees she's looking at him with meaningful understanding - automatically he brushes her off. "It doesn't matter."
The following day, outside his house in the rain, Angela and Jordan sit in his car, not quite ready to go inside. The car is warm and the repercussions of the raindrops landing on his car create an intimate space for them.
Looking past her towards the house, Jordan broaches the topic, "So-"
She looks at him, "You don't need to prep me."
"The thing is - he's not hard to like. People - they like him."
"You don't," she says plainly. Jordan doesn't know what to say; it's too complicated for him to comment on like this. When he doesn't say anything she speaks up, "I'll take your word for it. I'm on your side," she affirms.
Jordan shrugs, "Don't know if there're sides."
"Well, I've got your back." The thought of Angela Chase saying this about him and his dad makes Jordan laugh. Exhaling, he tilts his head towards the door as his hand grips the handle. "'s go." She smiles at him, then pulls her hood over her head and exits the car, rushing with him to the front door.
In the main room off of the kitchen, Angela, Jordan and Jeff Catalano are seated around Jordan's grandmother's dining room table. Angela is maybe a little too dressed up, like she's going to church; her hair is fastened to the side and softly curled and she is wearing a blouse and skirt her mother had bought for her last winter. Jordan isn't quite clear why she is dressed this way. Not only does he not understand why she'd gone through the effort, he also does not understand why she is dressed in clothes he'd never even seen her in. She didn't quite look like herself.
"So, Angela?" She lifts her head to look at him.
"Mm, hm," she tucks her hair and holds her fork in place as she looks to him.
"Long time no actual meet. Right?" Jeff says, his words casually engaging.
"Yeah," she smiles faintly. Jordan's leaning back in his seat observing, staying quiet.
"So," Jeff says. When he speaks to her he is smiling, friendly, but his words have an edge - what she feels is a mocking tone. It is unclear whether he means for it to be there or if this is how he speaks. "What's your story?" he asks.
"Um…" at a loss for what to say she smiles.
She's there for Jordan, and she came there to make things easier for him, but all this smiling is in spite of herself. She wants to make a good impression but she does not want her nervous politeness to cost Jordan something. The problem is, he asked her to be there, to smile and do what she's doing, she can't then think of it as a betrayal if she does. She glances in Jordan's direction, but he isn't looking at her.
"Let it go," Jordan says to his father with brusque dispassion.
"What?" Jeff asks innocently. "Thought we did this to get to know one another. I can't ask 'er anything?" Jordan slouches minimally and lets it go.
Jeff continues, Angela takes a bite, "You live round here."
Angela tucks her hair, "Um, not far. Elm and Vincent."
Jeff's eyebrows raise at the address, "Nice."
"Stop," Jordan says, cutting him off.
Jeff looks over at his son, then smiles back to Angela, "Whatta your folks do?" He tacks on, "Clearly you still have both."
Angela scoops some food with her fork as she looks up at him from her plate, "Um, my mother manages a printing company, and, my father's um, opening a restaurant."
"A restaurant?" he's impressed. "That's big."
Smiling, Angela again tucks her hair, "Um, yeah, I guess."
"It is." He takes a drink, "I'm in maintenance at the train yards. Played baseball before that. 'Fore my knee." He gestures to Jordan with his fork, "This kid did too, till he quit."
"Ya done?" Jordan is.
"We sposs'd ta sit here in silence?" Jeff poses to Jordan. "Food's not good enough for that." Jordan rolls his eyes. His father has a point: he'd brought her over, he can't expect them to not interact. Sure, he'd made a few remarks about money, and he had that mocking look in his eye, but yeah, okay, nothing that bad was happening. So he had to say something.
Head ducked, he gestures to his father, "'e played in the minor leagues in Texas." Jeff's pleased about the new direction this is going, and Angela smiles as if she cares.
After dinner Angela and Jordan are in his bedroom behind closed doors. Jordan's leaning into Angela against his wall, hovering over her, not breaking eye contact as he delays making contact. She wants him to kiss her, but he's enjoying this quiet moment between them now that they're away from his father.
"So, what'dya think?" he asks her.
"Uh..." she looks into his eyes, completely disinterested in talking over his father. She kisses him. It works for him. He pulls her to the bed and she happily follows.