The buzz of a football game commentary in the background was loud enough to annoy me, but it was my father and Damien’s shouts at the screens that really twitched a nerve. After dinner, dad had invited him to join him on the couch and watch some game between so and so team that I really couldn’t bother remembering the names of. Pure noise had followed.
I kept my thoughts to myself as I worked. “Men,” I muttered under my breath, unable to understand what it is about sports that appealed to these testosterone-filled beings so much. Focusing on doing the dishes that had piled up, I managed to tune out the sounds streaming in from the living room which is exactly why I almost died when a voice spoke, “Need any help?”
The soaped up fork slipped out of my hand and landed on the bottom of the sink as my hand flew to my chest. I whirled to glare at my dad, saying“For the billionth time dad, I don’t need your-” when I stopped. Because it wasn’t dad who was holding his hands up by his side in defense - it was Damien.
My shoulder slumped and I took a quick moment to recompose my face from the annoyance that was written on it to something a little less negative.
“Sorry,” Damien said, smiling and grabbing the towel hanging off a nail in the wall. Edging past me before I could say anything, he picked up the plates and spoons I had already washed and started to dry them off with the towel.
We worked in a shared silence, spare for the occasional ‘damn you Matt Moore!’ that dad shouted. I knew that Damien kept looking at me, despite acting like he didn’t. Conversation was something that sparked easily between us in school - although I’m not sure arguments counted as proper conversations. But now, neither of us were willing to start one. I didn’t know what to say myself.
I was happy he was here, in my house, with it having started from the moment I’d opened my front door to see him. There was no longer any regret, or longing for my mom’s presence. It was almost like Damien’s company had made up for all that. What I didn’t understand is how. How could he of all people make me feel such a way? How could he be the one to erase the negativity that had festered slowly, though surely, all through out today? It was that ‘how’ my mind was busy deciphering in my share of the silence.
I washed the last remaining utensil and handed it to Damien.
“Thanks,” I said, dropping my hands back to my side after wiping them dry.
Damien finished drying it off and set everything on top of the counter. Tossing the towel over a kitchen chair, he turned to me. There was an unusual tint of redness in his cheeks and he seemed to be thinking something over in his head.
“Makayla, can we talk?”
“Sure,” I answered instantly, crossing my arms over my chest and leaned back against the counter. “Shoot.”
Another embarrassing whoop sounded from the living room and we both turned to look at my dad who was literally bouncing up and down on the couch. “Touchdown losers!” he shouted, pointing at the screen and cackling like he’d just won a million dollars.
“Outside, maybe?” I suggested, gesturing at the back door. Damien grinned and nodded. He followed me as I led the way through the door, closing it behind him gently. We had a small garden out back, one that dad and I took turns maintaining every alternating weekend. I had taken the responsibility of setting out the patio furniture from the move to make it look pleasant.
A starry night sky greeted us as we both settled into the chairs.
“It’s beautiful tonight,” I said, gazing up. We could see more stars than usual, like the universe had granted us the magical view as a Thanksgiving gift. The longer I watched, greater numbers seemed to peek out through the gaps and holes in the thick, billowing clouds above. It was while I was admiring the view did something hit me. I realized this was the first time I was actually sitting out here in the backyard since dad and I had moved. The first time...with Damien.
I looked back at him only to realize his eyes were already focused on me. How long had they been? Damien didn’t give me a long time to linger on my thoughts as he begun to speak.