At a house party in Three Rivers in the spring of 2000, the age of the crowd varies – a mixture of high schoolers and people in their early twenties. A 22-year-old Jordan Catalano, newly returned from his near-year stint as an ex patriot in Veracruz, is standing in the living room shooting the shit with several guys he knows. It's their friend's place, the high school kids just show up – word of mouth from younger brothers or a girl seeing someone older (or looking to) – the usual. They look around it 'cuz they did the same when they were that age. The younger ones can bring the drama, but they've got enthusiasm and a desire to impress working in their favor.

From across the room a small group of high school girls standing in the kitchen catches Jordan's eye, for a reason he's not quite sure of. He appears to remain engaged in his conversation, but his gaze occasionally travels back to the girls, observing them as they betray themselves as novice drinkers, perpetually silly, and increasingly obnoxious. He's just returned his focus to his friends when he thinks he hears his name being giggled from the same group of girls. This time when he looks over he sees a somewhat familiar face, the owner of which carrying herself as if she would like to give the impression of experience, maturity, and familiarity. Danielle Chase, now sixteen, gives Jordan a slight head nod of recognition. Jordan, in return, walks away.

Later, Jordan is alone in the kitchen, leaning against a counter. Drinking from a bottle of whisky, he momentarily closes his eyes as he rests his head back on a cabinet. A young girl, maybe fifteen, possibly sixteen – it's hard to tell, she's tried so hard to up her age – approaches.

"Hi." She is short, with dark curly, curly hair and a lot of eye makeup. "You're Jordan, Catalano, right?" Though aside from the makeup and the top she put on she looks more like a baby than an adult, she's got enough of the self-deceiving confidence of youth that she believes she's talking to him as equals, and that there's something worldly in the way she's standing, looking up at him. He opens his eyes and shifts his head just enough to look at her. His stare is blank as his silence allows her to continue. She does; "You drive a red convertible car, don't you?" When he doesn't show any interest in confirming any kind of personal information, she moves on. "Whach'ya drinkin'?" She's getting nothing, just detached observation. "Hey, aren't you going to talk to me?" Still silent, Jordan shifts his weight and she shifts her conversation, watching him for his reaction: "I know someone who knows you."

Across the room the girl's friends are watching. Jordan and the girl are out of hearing range, but they see him standing there, listening to her, slightly amused, saying one or two words to her every now and then. The girl – who is on her way to being drunk – with unmerrited familiarity, reaches out and places her hand on his forearm; in one graceful movement Jordan coolly says something to the girl, detaches himself from her, and just walks away.

Later in the evening, the party in the backyard is still going, but most people by now have gathered into small clusters, and the crowd in general is a little less wild. Many have moved to the porch or inside the house, but there are still some people in the yard.

Danielle stands alone out at the keg, pumping it. Up. And down. Jordan casually approaches her. He puts his hand on her pumping hand. "You've pumped it too much." She looks up. He takes the tap from her and squirts it onto the ground. "It's all foam." He takes her cup and continues to fill it and dump it to eliminate the foam.

Danielle takes a step back, a little embarrassed, "Thanks."

Jordan doesn't look at her, "That was your friend. Wasn't it."

"Who?" Disinterested in her teenage coyness Jordan cocks his eyebrow in answer; he hands her the beer. "It wasn't my idea," is her confirming statement. Jordan lights a cigarette and exhales away from her face. He doesn't have much of anything to say to her. "So," she peers up at him, "aren't you going to ask me what I'm doing here?"

He glances at her. Her sister never dressed like that. "I see what you're doing here."

Jordan's disengaged nonchalance pushes Danielle to assume the air of cool aloofness; she does not want to stand out – it's been years since Danielle was a rookie on any sports team she plays on, and she doesn't intend to be one here. "Well, anyway, the party sucks."

Amused, Jordan looks down at her, "Oh yeah?"

She's blasé when she answers; "I was at a better one last week." This could be true, or this could be her first party ever, it is difficult to say. She's definitely playing it cool, and is much better at it than someone else, as he remembers. He sees her posturing for adulthood, and he vaguely wonders if she's for real, or only trying it on for size. He'd been in a hurry to grow up too... and she, she had been the opposite – thinking she wanted it, but holding on to being a kid in so many ways. With another glance in her direction he wonders if the little sister's that same way. But before he thinks too long on it he stops; it isn't any of his business. He owes nothing to this kid. Danielle Chase or not.

Jordan takes another drag from his cigarette. A girl comes by, they clearly know each other. She leans on him as they exchange a few words; there is a small amount of flirting, he grins at her, and then she walks away.

Danielle follows the girl with her eyes. She glances at Jordan, asking dryly, "You talk to Angela ever?"

Jordan looks her over with a knowing partial-smirk before he looks away, "I'll bet you already know the answer to that."

She does, pretty much. While she's closer now with her sister than she was when they both lived at home, Danielle's only ever gotten glimpses into Angela's actual life in high school, or her ongoing relationship with the brooding enigma Jordan Catalano. Even Danielle's own feelings about Jordan have never been all that clear to her. He'd been unknowable to her in her youth: Angela was withholding on the subject, he was never around, save for a moment here and there, and when he was he'd never spoken, to her. Nothing that wasn't monosyllabic. That doesn't seem to have changed. And while Danielle had found him taciturn and closed-mouth, frustratingly sedate and subtly mocking, he had nonetheless been folded in to her formative adolescent conceit of a subject of desire. It's strange now to be there, in a torch-lit backyard of a house party, conversing with him, no longer the dismissible younger sibling. She does not desire him, but he, and Han, and Sundance, and Rhett, and Renfro, are the shaping source of her desire, though she could not have named him as part of that list until she saw him there this night, as she watched from across the room. She looks again at him; Jordan Catalano, for her, merely represents the abstract of something she is waiting for, but for her sister he was actually it – her first heartbreak, her first love. And worldly affectation aside, Danielle is still young enough, and inexperienced enough, to believe that that will always matter – that it does, and shall continue to, count for something. And she wants to see proof of it. "She's seeing someone else, you know." Danielle watches him, waiting for a reaction.

Jordan has no particular reaction to this; he only answers because he can tell her little sister's expecting him to. He clears his throat. "Oh yeah?"

Having never gotten the full story from her sister, Danielle's brows narrow as she asks, "What happened between you two?"

Jordan studies her before answering. "We grew up."

Somewhere on the spectrum between pointed and thoughtful Danielle remarks, "I don't think that had anything to do with it."

"Maybe not." And Jordan takes a drink.

A friend approaches, "We're taking off, Man." Jordan nods. The friend looks Danielle over. "Pretty young, Catalano." Jordan half-cracks a smile as he looks away and takes a long drag off his cigarette. The day he starts looking at high school girls, or at Danille Chase as anything other than– he stops; there's no need to finish the thought, it's never going to happen.

"I'm Angela's sister," she says to the guy.

He is friendly, but dismissive in his reply, "I don't know who that is, Baby."

Danielle sees now the extent to which things have changed. If 'Angela' is not a name recognizable to his friends, then Jordan really has moved on; a little part of her absorbs the hurt on her sister's behalf. She doesn't even know why she'd said it. Was it to justify herself or in spite of herself? She does not wish to eternally be the baby sister, the younger one in the elder's shadow. Suddenly she sees it silly to be standing there with Angela's former boyfriend. What had that been about proving?

In response, Danielle downs the rest of her beer, or, as much of it as she can. This too amuses Jordan. His arms are crossed and he flicks some ash from his cigarette as he watches her. His friend too finds this funny and wraps his arm around her, "All right."

Danielle Chase is not easily shaken, nothing about her is timid or wilting; trepidation has always been reserved for her sister alone. So while unappreciative of, and admittedly uncomfortable with, this 22-year-old's close proximity, she is neither frightened nor entirely dissuaded from mixing with an older crowd. Her shoulders stiffen and her gaze diverts to the side, but otherwise she appears the same as she ever did.

"Later, Seth." Jordan speaks the words huskily, but he is casual in his comportment.

The friend Seth looks down at her, then at Jordan, kind of laughs, and then removes his arm and walks away, nodding at Jordan as he leaves. "Later Catalano."

Danielle sidetseps a little and then looks at him, "You didn't have to do that."

Without getting heavy or paternal he questions, "How many of those have you had?" indicating her cup with his eyes and an understated head jerk.

Danielle is not interested in being handeled, and to communicate this she boldly takes his cigarette from his hand – in response to which Jordan's eyebrows raise – makes eye contact, takes a drag, and hands it back. "I'm not counting," she says as she exhales. Jordan can't help but make comparisons...

Exiting the house, the curly haired brunette from earlier shows up beside them along with a friend of Jordan's. This girl is drunk and fairly irritating. The kind of girl who at sixteen sees herself as totally mature and so on the same level as 23-year-old guys, so much so she thinks she can boss them around. "Danielle!" she enthuses.

Danielle dispassionately makes the introductions, "This is Sheri." Jordan lifts his eyebrows at the girl, then nods a 'what's up' to the guy. Danielle addresses her friend, "Where's Lindsey and Jamie?"

"They went home," she shrugs, too lit to care that Jamie Was their ride.

Danielle loses her tough act when she hears she has been stranded. "What?" But no one really hears her because at that moment several more guys appear, talking to Jordan and the friend who's standing with the Sheri girl. As they stand there, the older guys are quite literally talking over the girls' heads, carrying on their conversation as if the girls weren't even there.

Eventually the conversation comes around to the one with his arm slung round Danielle's friend telling Jordan, "We're headed over to Kim's."

"Oh my God!" Sheri kind of throws herself on Jordan, "You should totally come!" He steadies her, and then takes a step away.

"This chick's nuts man," one of them chuckles.

Jordan ignores the invitation and subtly tilts his head towards Danielle, "Hold on; I'll be right back." Jordan breaks away from the group and walks into the house; ignoring the girls, the guys continue to talk amongst themselves.

Having taken care of whatever he'd needed to – saying 'late' to the buddy who's place this is and bowing out of a previously arranged meet-up with a girl – Jordan returns momentarily, lighting a new cigarette as the group around the keg is finally motivating to leave.

"So, we're going to Kim's," the bearded friend says.

"Yeah," another says, pulling his keys from his pocket. "We'll meet you there."

"I need some cigarettes first," the one in the hat interjects. "You're driving man," he nods at the first guy.

Scratching his beard and half grinning, the one friend asks, "Did'ya see Lacey here tonight?" He gets some wry smiles in response and the group starts to make their way through the side yard and out to the street.

Jordan too takes a few steps to follow, then pivots to turn back to Danielle who's remained in place, now again standing alone by the keg. "Com'on," he says. "I'll take you home." She looks at him, around the emptying yard, then down at her remaining beer. The night had not turned out like it'd mean to, why act like it had? Decidedly, she tosses the plastic cup to the ground. He waits for her, then walks with her.

A few paces ahead of them are Sheri and the guy she's been hanging with. Jordan watches as his buddy walks with her to the cars, his hand round the back of Sheri's neck. He looks down at Danielle beside him, who is just then rubbing her eyes and yawning. This decides it. Jordan throws down his still-good cigarette, quickens his pace, and catches up to the twosome ahead of them. "Hey, Sheri," he says casually. "Got a cigarette?" She stops walking to look through her bag; the guy moves on, still walking towards the street. Eventually she finds one, then begins looking for a lighter.

"Jordan," the one in the hat says, pounding the hood of the car, "let's go."

Now having reached the others and his car, the friend turns round and he too calls out, "Come on." He rolls his eyes as he loses patience with the girl who's holding them up, "Let's get outta here!"

Still rifling through her bag Sheri stumbles a little; "Hold on!" The guy's head drops back in exagerated and disproportionate irritation.

Referring to the girls, to his buddies Jordan says, "I got them."

Fine with that, the friend calls back, "Kim's!" He unlocks his car and climbs in. Jordan nods. The guys load into the cars and drive off.

As he heads towards his own car Jordan nods to the girls, "Com'on." Sheri is still rummaging– "Forget it," he says.

Waiting for the girls, Jordan starts the car, which, Danielle notes, is not the car she'd always seen him in. This car is not red, it is not a convertable, and, to her at least, it is not Jordan Catalano. Sheri pushes into the back seat, followed by Danielle taking her place in the passenger seat. Shifting into gear Jordan looks into the rearview mirror, "Where do you live?" His voice is gruff, but only Danielle hears it.

"We're going to Kim's!" Sheri declares before her eyes roll from the dizziness.

Danielle knows very well he has no intention of taking them anywhere but home. "Just take us to my house," she says, leaning her head against the cool window. Sheri falls back against the seat and slouches into a – hopefully, sobering – slumber.

Jordan exhales – this is not what he'd signed up for for the night – and making a left turn he heads for Angela's.

Driving down the familiar street, they pull up outside the Chase house. Sitting there, Jordan looks past Danielle through the passenger window and kind of studies the house – he has not been there for a long time. Danielle too looks, then seeks a glance back at Jordan, wondering what he's thinking, or possibly remembering. She starts to say something but the stopped car has aroused her friend.

"Hey!" she looks around groggily. Jordan rolls his eyes; he's ready for this night to be over. Sheri straightens up and leans forward into the front seat, "Do you think your friend will call me?" Jordan looks at her, then at Danielle, and after a pause gestures to the house with a slight nod.

Danielle gets his meaning and opens the door; "Right." She steps out of the car and proceeds to help her friend out. Once both out on the curb, Danielle pauses and looks at him, holding the door before she shuts it, "Thanks, Jordan." Then the cool act is up once more, "See you around." She shuts the door, and without a look in her direction Jordan Catalano starts the car and drives away.

Posted 12/2/12