((Ben Fields continued from Be Still))
((Temporally continued from A Lazy Saturday))
They found Ben casually sat roadside, ass wearing an imprint into the curb while his stocky legs fanned out into parking slot.
First thing he asked when the car door thumped shut beside him was where Lana had been, on reflex. Friends house, actively ignoring Sadie via loud, concerted complaint. He already had that answer committed to the crucible of memory where hed formerly cradled bathroom queries in French.
Shed picked the one friend that had moved across town post middle school, so Ben had been waiting a while. One earful later he knew hed already missed most of Lanas presumptuous, insistent rant and ramble one-two jab about how the dance was bullshit. Way to cuss around Mom. Cursory and respectful greetings made, he was well inclined to tune whatever else Lana had to precociously drone in vain on about. Even if hed actually wanted to listen- no sooner than on his deathbed- he had some thoughts to be distracted by. For once, they seemed petty. No work to be done, not tonight. As good a time as any, while they were burning pavement at pedestrian speeds. Mom mused at length on a late night dinner. Hed already filled up on some fries earlier, miscellaneous party junk food haplessly tossed down the gullet for good measure, but like hell he was turning down post dance IHOP. Lana affirmed her ballot to the positive. And then, of course, it was right back to the rant.
Dance had been pretty good. Actual dancing, not so much. Neither Lucilly nor himself would ever be laying claim to a dance trophy anytime soon. Maybe something they gave out on Americas Funniest. Lucilly had also insisted on mostly keeping their bodies separate, and Ben had of course been down. So they had danced themselves spastic in some square miles worth of acreage. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Like Ben Fields even knew the first thing about what embarrassment was. At least, when Lana wasnt somehow involved.
...- like okay, I get in theory that its equalizing the playing field if you flip the stereotype of guy asks out girl, but if you think about it making it a sanctioned special event really just reinforces-...
Embarrassment and Lana really went hand in hand at times.
Inability to bust out decent moves for shitty pop songs notwithstanding the dance floor had been laughter and smiles. Ben had left with jaw a little sore. Hed been really smiling himself hoarse. Hed thought they had definitely made a good showing. Had not looked a hair or overly starched thread out of place. Had somehow belonged out there, despite neither of them having a fucking clue. It wasnt hard. Most of it had come naturally. Hang out with the girl, it wasnt like he hadnt done it before. Kinda.
Looking back, his track record with girls wasnt really the best, objectively. Amanda, not much had happened there. Maria, bit too much thrown into the pot for his taste. Vanessa had shot him down before the first date had even been a thing. Georgia just hadn't seemed that into it, so another wash. And Mia, well... Words were sometimes a waste to even take an opening shot at. Exhibit A, the girl who shared his genes a few meters away. His dating history was a goddamn A-Team lineup with the rhyme scheme alone. Ultimately, no meeting of personalities that had fit particularly well. But no crying over any of those names, no hard feelings at all. Not even the walking disaster that had been Mia. Only an idiot let a few days, hours, months, whatever, last years.
...- and okay, when the boy asks the girl out you just know theres going to be some unfair level of pressured expectation-! ...
A few seconds could last years in some contexts.
It was still kinda weird to think about his romantic history, even if it was playing into the overly machismo bullshit stereotypes. How he was kind of romantically lame, for lack of better descriptive recourse. Lana could rail against them all she wanted, but stereotypes had at least some basis in reality, and Ben definitely felt the impact. Right there on the point of his chin, where he was supporting himself on his fist, elbow crooked against the sill of his adjacent car window. Felt like it had been a long time since hed just vacantly gazed out a window with nothing in particular to think about.
The dance with Lucilly had evolved, even if their skills had stayed stubbornly stagnant. The tables had been pretty full most of the night. Ben surmised that his critical appraisal of the schools genetic watershed of two left feet hadnt been the only one. Thank fucking goodness some people had common sense. There were some things man was never meant to see. Anyways, plenty of folk to squeeze a chair between and a conversation out of. Lucilly, being Lucilly, did her best to know everyone, and Ben had been quiet for a few idle chit chats, but he liked to think hed been the cool boyfriend figure for most of them.
Theyd left the dance after a couple of hours, walked the streets to sniff out the local burger bar. It had kind of all flashed by like the street lights were now in this car. Blurry streaks of dull soda bottle orange, just flitting and whizzing by even if you were straining to look right at them. Obviously Ben had been looking at Lucilly the whole time, primarily because he wasnt an socially challenged dumbass. Hed only noticed then how her eyes kinda smoldered like firecrackers popping, under even the shit public lighting. At some point shed smiled about something or another. Probably hadnt been anything important, but he could still clearly remember it. Hed been about to dive bomb backwards off the curb after the last lonely midnight driver sailed by in a jetstream of exhaust fumes, and then suddenly hed half tripped because hed been existentially thrown out of his husk of a body. Manly as said husk was.
Really hadnt seen that one coming. Obviously hed looked girls in the eye and mouth before. Even on the terms of testosterone. Even Lucilly herself. But that one-in-a-million eye-up had been something else, somehow different despite being essentially the same.
...- I mean by no means am I going to endorse the traditionalist structures of love-...
Yeah, thanks for the vote of confidence, Lana.
When they made landfall in the diner there had been a couple of other Sadies couples whod had the same idea. Pretty serious, family values affronting PDA to bear witness to. Shit was two something hand gestures away from full blown softcore. But Lucilly and Ben had kept everything PG, nary an innuendo to be found. Ben had at some point honestly wondered if Lucilly would legitimately get a single dirty joke if he just started machine gunning them her way. He honestly still wondered that now. Probably one of those questions youd never get a real satisfying answer to, in the vein of all the other ones. At some point shed been gone. Shed called Mr. Peterson to pick her up, he had. Ben had exchanged some casual talk with the both of them about Temple, Mr. Peterson had thanked him for doing well by his daughter. Good thing for it, Mr. Peterson was the sort of guy that would grind a lame duck suitors bone to dust. Shed gotten in, with some perpetually polite smile and wave his way. And then the car had silently taken off, tailpipe kicking up a bit of dust and radio static, and Ben had found himself some particularly standout patch of concrete to sit his ass on.
Some dude awkwardly tucked into a brand new collared dress shirt, sitting alone outside a neon-crusted place known as much for its sparring with the health inspector as its actual food. The end.
Ben. Ben. Two quick ones, and then the third sisterly call for attention was a fist straight to the shoulder. Ben didnt wince, but he definitely felt the close call on a dislocation and hefty hospital bill. Political views aside, Lana was always quite open to exercising her right to arms.
I was already paying attention, you know. Bens brow scrunched a bit, but of course he readily, wearily welcomed his sisters diplomatic faux pas.
Yeah, I know. Lana smiled that usual smug smile that wasnt really her prettiest for how gnarly it liked to curl around the floor of her nose. Ben nodded his head curtly in exasperated understanding.
Play nice, you two! Mom hadnt been speaking up so much, she seemed to be content with the radio and her children as background noise. She thumbed the dial on her too old by even Bens rose-tinted standards oldies down just long enough to encourage her children to not be strangers, and then immediately thumbed the dial back up again. What was probably Elvis or Motown, what was definitely an embarrassment to Bens lack of cultural heritage, suffused through their carspace. Ben pressed the cobwebs out of his wrist with a thumb, inspired to a conversation topic as fast as he said it:
How was your night? Lana opened her mouth, so fast Ben was tempted to glance around for the audience prompter. And dont give me the spiel. That probably offended Lana a bit, in terms of her righteous-ass crusade. As planned. She briefly stalled, then rallied with affected chipper:
Pretty good. We spent the entire time watching videos to get woke. Get woke, huh? Same generation and Ben was already finding the slang insufferable. You know, nine-eleven truths, how the IMF is trying to slowly crash our economy into Zimbabwes, the Clinton dynasty and the scandals they use to stay in power. Pretty crazy stuff going on if you know where to look for it. You could hear the smug know-it-all smile even when she wasnt deigning to slather it over her lips like a balm.
No. Lana genuinely did smile at that, cheeks collapsing into dimensions of dimple. She looked better when she wasnt actively trying to be a dumbass. Figures youd buy it, you probably think my friends and I spend our days as the girls who cried wolf of wall street.
You give me little recourse, the stories you tell. Either that or you guys actually study, but that claim would make the conspiracy theories look rational. Lana rolled her eyes at that:
Yeah, of course I dont even bother to glance at my book after the teachers done repetitively slamming it into our heads. Thing was, Ben genuinely wouldnt have been surprised at that truth. Just some movies- non crazy left wing conspiracist mind you- and discussion.
You mean no holds barred gossip.
Lay off. The brief tinge of blush otherwise betrayed her stalwart facade of defense. Dont look at me like that! Right back at ya, how was Sadie? That one needed a moments deliberation. No intent to withhold information under a nonexistent oath- the sibling code, so on and so forth- but Ben figured there was a way to say it all without automatically indicting himself. Quickly now:
Lucily was cool. Were both bad dancers-
Tell me something thats actually news.
-and we talked to a lot of the old crowd, Ben insisted with bemused finality. Grabbed a bite after. Talked some more, sans the old crowd because they were too busy getting to know each other too well. Sevilla and Victorya are both doing good, confirmed multiple times a minute. That one earned a warm old smile from Lana. She liked the junior Peterson girls. Ben vaguely endeavored to keep the two parties apart to the best of his ability, to delay the inevitable perfusion of a dubious influence. Both ways. Mr. Petersons also hanging in there.
Safe answer. Still suspicious, looked like. So much for not automatically indicting himself. Ben should have seen it coming. Damned if he did, damned if he didnt, that was how Lana liked to set him up. It was a song and a dance hed seen before, right down to the half-hearted dodge of her next en passant at his shoulder. Her brutal lioness swipes always vectored onto the same spot. Come on, you know Im weaseling it out of you eventually. Did anything cute happen? Ben kept his face and response even as he could manage:
Well apparently Kizi actually managed to have a good time with Beaks. The next Nagasaki, fielded right there in a Subaru chugging along at law-abiding velocities. Ben didnt even need to exchange looks to know what their mutual disdainful opinions on that one were. Yeah, surprises me too. But I guess hes one of those guys that can actually handle the ladies, in spite of himself.
I mean, Im sure hes legitimately got something going on in that brain of his he has to work around. Work around the mass of his own lazy ass, maybe. Ugly metaphor, that. Treatable mental illness is going to be one of the next great political issues of America, outside of the realm of private corporate pharmaceuticals. Seemed disingenuous when shed been wearing affected airs of scorn only a second prior. Oh, and also. That wasnt what I was asking for when I asked for something cute. Slimy smile that could have landed her straight in politics. Lana on the 2016 ticket, likely for the Green Party as the next Nader. Apparently his efforts hadnt been even-handed enough.
Thought you supported the defendants right to silence. He said as he spoke. Lana had a way of making people want to talk. He admitted sans shame, at least visibly worn on his cheek, Nothing happened. We just split. Doubt shes interested, really. It happens. Ben hadnt really brought it up with Lucilly, of course, but obvious was obvious. Hed made the judgement call on good information that Lucilly just wasnt in the cards.
Ooh, thats too bad. Lana smiled at him sympathetic, he was somehow mollified into relaxing even when he hadnt been tense or concerned in the first place.
Im surprised you were even rooting for it in the first place.
Lucillys a good girl. Something both sides could readily agree on, that. I think the two of you would have made an amazing couple. So Sadie aside, hows the rest of the weekend been for ya? Clumsy conversational riposte, but Ben was actually kind of proud. Lana bore the stumble with immaculate grace, he thought, it was becoming. She avoided the usual gaffes when it came to their Guantanamo time: the body of identity politic, ad hominem, so on and so forth. A right and relaxed conversation, besides something to toss his feet up onto.
Half blowing my joints out on the field. His legs creaked open at that. He felt at a sore spot on the inside of his knee, acute proof of his point. Not that it had stopped him from sacrificing it on the altar of dance. Coach and Luz know the drill, of course, but ouch would be my takeaway for the month.
And, uh, you still went to Sadie?
Not my brightest call, Im aware. Ben shrugged it off. No defense to offer up there.
Id say I told you so. She hadnt, but technicalities hadnt stopped Lana before. Well. I watched a practice game. Emphasis being on a, given Lanas well announced tendencies to avoid school functions as rule. As hed been ignoring in the all too recently. Actually, he wasnt even sure hed seen her around the practice field, even in the singular. You guys are looking good, think youll win the season again? Ben didnt need to think much on that one:
Likely. History, after all, had a tendency to repeat itself. Teams looking good. Cristo and I are looking good on the synergy for this season, even better than last year. Ben didnt think twice about skimping on the details and technicals. Lana was hardly privy to the inner workings of the old chalk diamond. She did however, seem engaged all the same:
I like the sound of that. Especially if you bring us to the regionals again. Figures she was in it for the state trip. How is Cristo, by the way? And the quiet weirdo. Apparently.
Usual shit. Ben would have dunked a kinda weird somewhere into the clauses foundations if he didnt think that would invoke Lana firing back full broadsides. What is it with you and Morales anyways?
I think hes cute. Oh, the eyebrows definitely jumped up into the berth of Bens bangs for that one. Lana saw it, riposted with a tisk. Not in the way youre thinking. I dont even give a rip in the first place, and youd kill me if I was eying any of the boys on that team. Damn straight. Of the guys on your team this year the one Id be writing diary entries about would be Luz.
Him? Didnt think he was your speed. I mean dont get me wrong, hes a great leader, but the dude can be kinda-
Ew. She looked at him, full facial scrunchie like hed just read her back a Fox News talk show script. Or one of his better English essays. I know his reputation, but I can appreciate looks without being into them. Its like- speaking of the baseball boys- Alex. Definition of oh god no but he pulls it off with a uniquely grimy and slimy charm of his own. Invoking the baseball teams long-standing Playboy of the year. That was point set. Or a home run, to call it in more appropriate terms. Match? Nothing Ben could really interject into the conversation that wouldnt be complete horse shit, at this point. After any amount of conversational gravitas had been dedicated to freaking Alex. Let alone his apparent charms and wiles.
What about you, whats up? A clumsy conversational swerve, but Ben figured itd do. They briefly exchanged looks. Lanas eyes flickered, several television channels worth of static before they gave up the ghost.Like the actual television set in their home did at a disappointing frequency.
Mmm...nothing much. Something really interesting on the cars floor mats, apparently. Buried somewhere in the years worth of eroded bristle.
Essay for Webber go alright? Shed been nervous about that one the last week, and Ben didnt blame her. In class essays? An hour something of straight violation of Geneva.
Yeah. Whatd you expect? That earned an eye roll from Ben. Rudely dismissive, hed call it.
Somehow, he lamely couldnt think of anything else to ask. There was a lull, both siblings took to looking windowside. They were sort of rocketing down a suburban street, a mostly deserted one that was familiar even through the motion blur. Old storefronts stubbornly hanging onto life after death were readable through the technicolor tint of a long-gone childhood recollection, even when the individual letters melted away. There were the dust-fed grasses of the fairgrounds. A turn away was hyperbolic description of how far they were from arrival. Seemed that they had only just gotten into the car. Lana suddenly shifted her body his way, with a hefty ricochet of her shoulder off her half-heartedly worn seat belt.
Hey. Maybe we can go to the fair this year? It took Ben about a second to react. He didnt hustle to train these particular sorts of reflexes. Only after his eyes were finished thoroughly glazing over was he able to register that he had something to respond to. He glanced back, quickly. Since when had Lana given a fuck about the County Fair? Even before shed decided on obstructionism as her modus operandi shed hated the fair and all its lame rides and creepy clown people. Sole difference back then was that shed been decidedly cuter and slightly less eloquent- maybe- while hating on it.
I mean yeah, we could. Kinda out of the blue for you though. She had to consider that one for a few moments. Probably really digging through the bottomless well of refutations she hugged closer than her old security blanket. The blanket. A relic of the past that was dead on arrival of Lanas ever irreverent laundry talents. She eventually came up with something along the lines of:
I- uh, I guess it is youre right. A non answer. Her voice always seemed to become something of a non-factor when she was uncomfortable. Ben had definitely noticed that at some point prior. She just sort of let her normally indomitable vocal chops crumple like tissue paper. Tissue paper she wasnt, or rather wasnt routinely supposed to be. I mean
A few seconds of silence. Whatever she meant, she hardly seemed to mean it at a glance. Ben watched her, wearily concerned for an infinite moment. Suddenly she pitched it out there, a power line drive to be caught on the rebound:
When are you shipping off?
It didnt seem to be relevant, sans context. Ben already knew what she was going for.
Who told you?
I heard you talking to mom and asked her about it when you werent waiting around. Hm. So there was a reason Mom was really sticking to her guns with the lame warbling of Axl Rose. When had he told her? That had been two days ago. He hadnt even owned this sad excuse for a dress shirt then. I figure McKinley finally convinced you?
I mean, he wasnt the only one with influence. That earned a quiet, somber, infinitesimal nod from Lana. Her eyes were still solidly M.I.A, foxholed somewhere on the outside. Ben thought back on one of their arguments on the matter of his intent to enlist. One of many, anyways. All essentially the same, until hed finally brought up something he hadnt really wanted to broach on. Amounted to disturbing the rest of the dead, somehow. As stupid as that sounded.
Once, on a summers day where the dust-choked wind had been noisily banging on their windows, Ben had asked. Idle childhood curiosity, he could still recall hed been half bored while asking, waiting for the wailing drone of Saturday morning commercials to come to an end. Dad had mused on it for a moment. Then said he thought military service was an honor. A noble fight hed almost signed himself off to, before hed met Mom. Chest slightly inflated with patriotism, just a bit under the collar. Lana hadnt been there, but she could well relive the moment secondhand.
Shed never brought up the arguments after that one.
But yeah, Ben nominally concluded. Will hyped me up pretty well. Who dares wins, and all that. Will had done a good job on that front, selflessly showing Ben the ropes. And the weapons. Ben had liked the feeling of a gun in hand, he had to admit. Couldnt really be sure why, but it seemed
right? Proper. Not that hed be playing that sort of self-appraising guessing game any time soon. Not here, anyways, where he had the whole Colosseum as audience. There was a few seconds pause. Lana was still parrying his gaze with the broadside of her face. Ben guessed that at least passably worked, if one ignored social convention totally. Hence, the perfect conversational angle for most of his Cochise peers to adopt. He searched for some words. After a few seconds too many passed in a few seconds, I know youre still not on board with it, but
I am. Well. He almost wanted to point out that it didnt really seem like she was, in any way. But this definitely was not the time for that. So silence reigned. Even through an almost obnoxiously loud car radio. Mom was pushing the non-interventionist narrative a bit too hard on her own behalf, it seemed. Im on board with it, she repeated. Quietly, but she finally turned to look at him.
So. Where did Mom keep the Kleenex in the car, again? Ben realized, there and then with a familiar heart attack of a chest-shuddering jolt, that hed be needing some soon. History, again, repeated itself. I know youre still not on board with it. He repeated. She looked at him, a bit offended and a lot helpless, but her slightly reddened, watery bloodshot glare didnt really speak on its own behalf. Things needed to be said. Worst case scenario Ben let her cry it out into his shirt. Not like the thing would ever be seeing any other use after this night. But its something Ive got to do. I get to save us some cash, you can go off to a school of your choice. Better than trying to waste the money on me when I probably cant leverage it. It hadnt been that long ago, even, that hed still been entertaining the idea of using some of his scholarships and grants. But, no. Just didnt seem like the appropriate action to take. Hed thought about it a lot, hadnt really learned much, except that somehow, someway hed be ankle-deep in combat boots and that there was no other way.
I know that. She sounded like shed left off the one key clause: But I dont like it. Also sounded like shed had to swallow a sob, how her breath gently as a wind chime rattled weakly on the punctuation mark.
He hadnt even told Mom this part. He was going to now, by sheer proximity. He honestly wished shed speak up right about now, but that was most likely a plea the heavens wouldnt be hearing out anytime soon. Honestly? Guess I dont trust myself to do well in school.
Ben, your grades are amazing, you study hard, and you had scholarships. Full ride. At least shed openly rolled her eyes at that. They still looked pretty tender though.
Yeah, but I just dunno if I can deliver when Im there. You know the stats on that college dropout rate. Made me watch that whole Race to Nowhere' movie too, odd as it is to admit that you ever positively influence me. Anyways, the moneys not all there. Wouldnt cover housing.
Least in the military Id get a shot at traveling sans expenses. To a place that isnt fucking Phoenix, which everyone and their decrepit grand-
Ben. Ben hadnt even realized, for a moment, that Lana had been trying to grab his attentions. Hed had a whole spiel prepared, about as quality as was possible in about ten seconds of prep. A shame to let it go, almost, but that could all be promptly disposed of. I get your reasons, and Im not contesting them. Huh. Actually a pretty simple overture. Guess Ben had no reason to be trying to contest her then. Words wasted, unnecessary when she was making herself all too clear. I just want to, you know.
What do I know? Ben would admit to trying to play the Lana role, given this moment of opportunity to pounce on the role reversal. His gambit almost dangerously failed. She did tear up a bit- a lot- but she also blushed, bobbing a bit in place with a sudden outpouring of angry energy. She threw a fist at his shoulder in protest. This time he handily dodged by entire miles, feeling muscles relax into a smile in spite of himself.
You know! She whined. I want to spend at least a little time with you. Before you go. She pursed her lips a bit, fingers suddenly furiously clawing away, really digging into the corners of her eyes where they failed to properly stop the dam that had suddenly burst. E-even if it is in a stupid place I dont like. The token effort to sound tempered, mature as she was upset was appreciated, but not bought into.
Doesnt change the fact that Im surprised, gotta be honest. So, September, right? Lana nodded, even half-distracted by trying to stopper her tears with her knuckles. I think Id have to delay the recruitment process by some then.
You could work a job over the summer.
You were fast on that. And she didnt seem to particularly care, that she was baring heart and soul to the brother she usually prefered to treat like a foreign occupier or a violation of the Third. Somehow that felt pretty good. Even as she continued crying, likely in spite of herself at this point. It was exhausting to watch. Always was, whenever Lana could make Ben feel like a shit brother by getting a bit misty-eyed.
Just a suggestion, I mean.
A smart one. Ben shrugged in lukewarm humor, a weary eye hawk-like over her occasionally shudder. Ill take it.
So youll stay until then. She plaintively bleated, tried to look him in the eye for that. Hard to see the iris, it was sort of melting and blurring into everything else that was a large wet blob. Ben nodded firmly.
No hesitation, yeah.
That soundbyte seemed to harken back to something, but Ben couldnt quite remember what. Somehow he was already forgetting those moments, those days where everything seemed to be quiet and still and time was molasses over the skin. Bit disconcerting, but hed take it as it came. Like the probably inevitable male-pattern baldness, still years in the making. Ill find something to do for the summer. Also. I cant promise Ill convert you to liking the Fair.
Honestly Ill probably still hate it. Even while were there. The mood was lighter now, for sure. The tears were still there, eroding a river straight down the contour of her face and occasionally striking out against the faded leather of car seat. But
What was there left to say there? Somehow Ben didnt think further commentary was warranted. The two of them talked all the time anyways. She choose to segue, after a few moments of deliberate nothingness:
Will you be free on the day of the Fair?
I can probably drop you guys off before I go off to work. Ben continued to stoically refuse to believe that Mom had in anyway even skimmed a detail of the brief exchange of her two children. A finger smoked and poached by age poked out from the tiny crevasse between driver door and seat, awkwardly angled. A thick brace of tissues that wadded itself into a loose floral shape blossomed from between Moms outstretched digits. Ben didnt need to be proven right, but nice all the same.
He noiselessly took the offered tissues and gently thrust them Lanas way. She saw them through a smattering of her own fingers. Her hand lingered on the periphery. A void between their hands, that stubbornly yawned. Ben thought she wasnt going to take them, for a moment. It was well within her right, within his expectation. A sort of final holdout. She really seemed intent on it. But she did take them. Pawed at his hand for a second, then retreated with her prize.
Pretty rude. Good enough.
Benjamin Ben Fields
V6 Pregame Concluded
((Ben Fields continued in Rare Footage of Jerry Worried))
1 post • Page 1 of 1
Heart of a Girl
- Joined: March 27th, 2015, 4:13 am
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Unofficial Theme : 'I'm out of sight, I'm out of mind. I'll do it all for you in time.'
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