Brace yourselves, I was going for the reality of a certain point in a young person's life, and characters might not be shown as their best selves; hopefully it still rings true... Hope you enjoy; feedback more than appreciated!
The Christmas after Angela's graduated college she's come home for the holidays from a six-month internship in New York. After Mexico regular contact between her and Jordan Catalano has been non-existent, but there are occasional phone calls and post cards, scattered visits, and there've been a couple of nights they've spent together. But there have also been fights and differing points of view driving them apart. So while on paper they're still friends, for the most part they have slipped out of each other's worlds.
Three nights before Christmas, Angela finds her way to a house party thrown by the friend of someone she's stayed somewhat in touch with from high school. Amid the house full of strangers are the faces of distant memories of people she knew in high school — a friend from newspaper, a debate partner, a friend's ex-girlfriend, a cheerleader, a soccer player, someone with a locker by hers, that kid in the back of that math class… 'Strange,' she thinks, 'how people who never knew each other come home four years later to the same Three Rivers house party, and somehow it's almost as if we'd known each other all along… Strange what time does.' As she surveys the scene, Angela's friend hands her a plastic cup cocktail and the girls proceed to drink and mingle.
And with every new conversation she has with a prior-to-then stranger, Angela gets looser, and freer with the alcohol, topping off her drink enough times to make more than five drinks. And much more than five times she's recited the requisite rundown of post-matriculation accomplishments: university, degree, move to big city, competitive internship, blah, blah, blah. Through the course of the night — and the unyielding stream of cocktails — the repetition of the sounds that create the listings of these achievements inevitably imbues them with a sense of magnitude, sparkling originality, and general fabulousness they hadn't carried with them before she walked through the door earlier that evening. Angela is drunk. And not solely on alcohol.
Across the house in a different room and in a different frame of mind and spirit is Jordan, hanging with some friends, listening to a buddy strumming a guitar. Though Jordan's there, and still knows a good number of the people there, house parties in Three Rivers really isn't his bag anymore. For one thing there just comes a point when you're a little too old for it. He'd made his way there with some buddies who're back in town for the season, and he fits in as seamlessly as ever, but mostly now his time's spent in the city in clubs and divey scenester bars. The status and the hype of making the scene means nothing to Jordan, but he's young, played out on the suburbs, and out there living life.
From time to time Jordan, seated with bottle of beer at his feet, messes around on his harmonica, playing a few notes here and there in accompaniment, but really he is just listening to the music his friends are making, and occasionally joining the conversation of the small circle of people he's sitting with. Unlike others in attendance, Jordan Catalano has nothing to prove to himself, much less to anyone else. With beer, music, smokes, and friends, he's completely satisfied and self-contained. Not only are he and his friends not participating in their peers' litmus test of success, they're barely aware it's happening. Most of what is going on around them is passing completely unnoticed by Jordan and his buddies. Jordan Catalano leans back and opens another beer, his friend strums another song.
As she moves through the house to join some people she knows, Angela catches sight of him. Standing with her friends, holding her drink mid-air, hovering before her lips while lost in thought, Angela watches Jordan, waiting for him to notice her. Eventually she catches his attention, making eye contact as his interest wanders from his group and he with disinterest takes in the scene. Spotting her he gives her a warm smile, then returns his attention to the music and his harmonica, playing a few drifting notes and then slips back into the conversation with his buddies. She watches the corners of his eyes crinkle as he chuckles at something that was said.
Angela waits for further acknowledgement, but he does not turn back to her. He is not playing games, he just does not feel that pull towards her anymore. At some point, and he does not know when, it'd evaporated, no trace of it left. Like it had never been there. There'd been those times, when despite months of no communication, they would fall into each other's arms, and beds, and somehow it had always seemed right. Something about coming back to her, ending up overandoveragain with her, officially or not, had felt more than familiar, it was good. But not tonight. Sure, it's nice to see her, really nice, but he does not have the need to feel her by his side. This is not entirely new and altogether unprecedented, but whether it is the coolness with which it was done, or its magnification through the bottom of her soon-again-to-be empty glass, Angela feels it like she never has before. She stands in place, smile cracking as it turns from genuine to a mask of disappointment. Angela waits a moment longer, but no, there's nothing more he's giving her — not a 'hello', not a second look. She turns again to the bar.
An hour or so later, Angela is once again standing with a few people, having one of those liquored conversations of heightened genuineness and shrill exclamations. Jordan crosses the room with her in his sights, and as he sides up beside her he acknowledges the scene for what it is — the alcohol is the host to a self-congratulating orgy of cattiness and self-preservation.
When she notices him she turns, slurring into a smile and resting a hand on his arm, exclaiming in a painfully audible tone, "Oh my God, hi!"
"I didn't know you were here," she feigns as she fawns. Jordan allows her this fallacy; she's never really mastered drinking. "So, wow, how are you?"
Her affected interest irritates him. It's not in Angela's true nature to be disingenuous, but she can get this way when she's nervous or's been drinking, and between taking it or leaving it, Jordan'd leave it in a second. "Uh, good," he answers, looking her over as he does. To him Angela sounds like a housewife at cocktail hour: banal, vapid, and superior.
Allowing herself this small bit of honesty, but awkwardly giving it a coy twist, Angela says, "I thought I might see you here."
"Oh yeah?" Jordan's eyes don't seem to ever rest on any one thing.
Angela takes a sip, "It's been a while." She smiles ingratiatingly.
"Yeah," he nods. Jordan takes a drink, "Graduated?"
"Mm, hm." She glances at him, "Here with anybody?"
At this her bravado returns, "I haven't seen you in years, Still doing...?" She pauses with an imperial smile, "What are you doing?"
Jordan smiles blandly and looks around, single-handedly cracking his knuckles, "Playing music. Doing some wood work."
She nods, and eyeing him as she takes another drink she asks with cavalier superiority, "Ever go back to school?"
Of course she had to take it back to there. The one-sided fight she'd been passive-aggressively waging for years. Jordan halfway sighs and for a moment looks away, above the crowd's heads. With a slight grimace, he returns to the conversation, "No." It isn't that Jordan doesn't like the answer, it's that he does not like the question. Over the years she keeps coming back to this. He flashes a mocking grin at her.
Angela can see his friends are kind of looking at her — the drunk girl talking too loudly in an affected voice — and this spurns the artificiality of her conversation, "Oh." She's said this as if she really pities him, as if this had been his dream and she is really sorry to hear it has not come true for him; her tone resembles that of a news anchor — the intonation of feeling is there, but it is hollow — if the party had been quieter it might have echoed.
"Well, if you remember," he says, completely disinterested in any sympathy — insincerity aside — regarding a life he's more than fine with, as his voice takes on a slightly sharper edge, "it was never part of my plans."
Angela nods as if knowingly, "Right. Right." She changes the subject back to her, "You know I just got back from New York. I've been studying there. Well, working." She adds, a little too loftily, "You should visit, we could spend a weekend—"
"Cut the crap."
Startled both by his bluntness and his rejection of her conversation, she stares at him, "What."
But Jordan's bored with her performance and doesn't much care if he's coming off as rude. She's coming off as false, which to him is much worse. "Just, give it a rest Angela. Who do you think you're fooling? I'm not interested in that fake voice. Don't flirt with me. I know you."
Left exposed and humiliated, the tone has drained from her voice, "What does that mean?" Jordan takes a look around: his friends are still watching neath lowered lids and from the corners of their eyes. He growls a sigh, irritated to have been a part of even such a small scene. He takes Angela's arm at the elbow and walks with her around a corner where they are alone. He speaks to her firmly but calmly; he is not angry or cruel at the beginning, but the tension escalates as he progresses; he is not entirely sober himself. "Angela, you're growing up but you still see me as seventeen. I'm not lost. You don't get to save me. Or pity me. Or pretend to be embarrassed by me. I'm sick of this," he searches for the right word, "condescending bullshit — like you've made all the right turns and I'm wallowing in this—" He regroups, "I don't slack off. And you, you don't get to think you're further ahead than me. You're still this scared little girl who doesn't know who she's supposed to be, what she's supposed to feel, or think, or want. You're scared. You're still timid and," he thinks again for the right word, "trepidatious, and your little jokes just show how scared your really are. Scared or angry." He looks at her, "Or maybe just hurt that things finally ended up as they did."
"'Ended up'? I left. I'm not waiting around for you to get it together. I'm not following you around like a puppy anymore."
"Look around Angela," he says sharply, "no one's asking you to."
That hurt, and so she fires back. "Look at you," she sneers. "Hanging around this same town, same friends, wasting your time; same old 'whatever happens happens'. Please. It's a waste. Aren't you just so sick of this lethargic life? Where are you going? You know what," she says as she stares him down with disdain, "I am embarrassed for you. And no," she adds, "I don't see you as seventeen anymore; you had potential then." She'd meant that to sting. With drinks and her wounded pride she's past the point of being able to curb or edit herself. The weapon choice was calculated, the wound, and even this war was not. It'd happened so quickly this fight. They'd fallen right into it, even as if it had been lying in wait for them. And there was no stopping it now.
Scorning her, but in total control of himself, with measured emotion Jordan says to her, "You're a sloppy drunk and being a real bitch, Angela."
She turns on him fiercely, "Don't you ever fucking call me again." Jordan looks at her dully, and just walks away.
And more than six years of – everything – just. Stops.