Source: Blog Battle 2020
February’s Prompt: Vivacious
Definition (from vocabulary.com): A vivacious person is lively and spirited … [and] naturally fun to be around; they sparkle, they animate any group they’re part of, they’re full of life … from Latin vivere “to live.” It has more of a sense of playfulness than lively or animated. Even the most sedentary slob can feel revitalized in the presence of a vivacious soul.
From this point onwards, I aim to set each new work of flash fiction within my first novel’s universe, experimenting with scenes of backstory and lore that may or may not make it into the finished project but will give me the freedom to have fun with the characters and different narrative voices. I may be a year or two late, Gary, but I got there in the end!
Now, typically, the word ‘vivacious’ wouldn’t — and probably shouldn’t — be used to describe a man, but I wanted to challenge myself with my return to the blogging scene, so I picked the only protagonist I hadn’t yet introduced to my first draft, who happened to be male, and ran with the idea. At the end of the day, it’s what you make of it, yeah?
He was ignoring her. Well, he was ignoring something. He was himself, just…not the usual way. He’d come to this party, even though she had plenty of company without him. But why was he thinking like that — like he was doing their friendship a favour? That wasn’t normal. Their normal was definitely out there somewhere; not here, but not gone.
Maybe it was just hidden behind one of the other skyscrapers, an incandescent feather in a sea of iridescent monoliths, dancing invisibly beyond reach. Something like that.
Ray winced, clumsily grasping for a way to make sense of his thoughts. They were verging on the ridiculous. He splayed his fingers on the glass and narrowed his focus to the physical — the right now. What he knew to be real. Even the bubbles of blue and orange that flecked out from all five pressure points, refracting the setting sun in swirls of tech glory. He scoffed and squeezed the star-swirls together under a closing fist, pushing off from the window with his knuckles. A view from the hundred and tenth floor of the Exogon Tower was so far beyond his means, he almost didn’t deserve it.
Their nouveau-socialite host, Riyad, was waist deep in conversation, perched on the edge of a sofa and surrounded by a bunch of seniors and even some middle classmen — fifteen-year-olds at a penthouse party. Right. Maybe that was why the music was so shocking. He caught Cass’ eye briefly as he passed between pockets of academy intrigue, but immediately cast his eyes to the floor, holding fast to (of all things) the carpet pattern. A solid ‘right now,’ for sure, but one that relegated Cass to a frustrating ‘not-sure-when.’
At the steps to the kitchen, where the party’s unofficial DJ had set up a table, he lifted his gaze, the corners of his mouth and a fist in greeting.
“Thien, brother,” said Ray, narrowing his eyes, “where are the tunes?”
The fact that Ray’s classmate wasn’t paying attention mostly answered his question. Instead, the other boy was yapping away to someone on his snap-cell between sips of Serene. Only at the sound of Ray’s voice did he finish off the tumbler of sky blue liquid and remove the device from his ear.
Ray gripped the edge of the table, looking intently at Thien. “Party’s this way,” he said, nodding to the jalapeño-sized device pinched between the boy’s fingers. “Who you got on there? Gotta be someone worth letting me down.”
“That’d be anybody, Ray,” Thien fired back. “Nah, but I didn’t think you’d mind. Been a puddle of gloom since you got here. What’s up?” Thien rolled the snap-cell back and forth, nursing it with his thumb.
“That obvious?” said Ray.
“Like SpireSec in a schoolyard.”
“Oof, dark. Too soon.”
“Dark times, dark measures.”
“So brighten them up, T.”
“So bring the fire.”
Ray frowned, then chuckled. “So…why are we arguing?”
“I don’t know. Why you being weird with Cass?”
Ray tensed, scowling, but stepped up level with Thien, looking past the taller boy’s shoulder at a row of matt grey plates and cups above the kitchen island. “What makes you say that?” he said, feigning nonchalance by splitting his focus, wondering how one man living alone could justify that much crockery.
“Oh, I don’t know,” teased Thien dryly. “Maybe the fact she keeps looking up here, like Pablo’s jokes are boring her, like you and she have something to talk about. Am I getting close?”
Ray was silent.
“Shit, you do.”
Half hiding behind Thien’s larger frame as he turned, Ray crossed his arms and set his eyes to wander the skyline again, searching for that feather behind even higher buildings, all the way to the Dome’s upper reaches, where purple panels waned to midnight blue. “I…” he tried, then realised he didn’t have an answer. When he made it clear he didn’t intend to finish that sentence, Thien elbowed him solidly.
“Well, figure it out then,” said Thien. “We graduate in two days. Two days. Don’t make that awkward for me. Class of ’29 don’t split. Don’t shake.” He tipped his head in Riyad’s direction, adding quietly “Don’t end up like him. New flat, new job, new friends, yeah? How many classmen of his do you see? Catch my drift?”
Ray grimaced, dumbly standing to the side while Thien pushed the snap-cell behind his ear to finish his prior conversation. Mia — Mia was on the other end. She couldn’t make it to the party. Thien didn’t blame her.
Ray started to tap his finger on the edge of the table. He’d just come from being with Mia and knew she had an appointment. He’d had no such excuse. Nor had he thought he’d need one. Besides, his date with Pablo’s sister had been good, so…
So what does that have to do with anything?
Nothing was leading him to a sound conclusion. Everything was muddled, bottled up. Raw untapped energy with nowhere to go. Well, one place. He could admit that much. He chanced a look toward Cass, wondering what he needed to say. At this point, maybe anything was better than nothing.
His eyes settled on an empty space, not yet filled in by the rest of the circle. He started, then swept the apartment for signs of his best friend, from the stairs leading up to the mezzanine, across the seamless dual aspect wrap of the windows, to the bend of the kitchen, where the floor dropped down to a dining area. Then he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“You good, man?”
“No. Not really.” His body sagged and the weight of Thien’s hand disappeared. “Let’s just bring the fire, man. Do what we do.” His resigned voice shouldn’t have inspired confidence, but Thien made a small sound anyway and tapped on his monitor. Some things were simply known.
The moment the new music dropped, the quality of the room changed. Thick multi-layered beats drove a textured chorus of synthesised vocals home. Heads began to bop and bodies to shift, and within the first eight bars, there was a sway, then a ripple and a groove. That was all the encouragement Ray needed. He nodded to his friend in satisfaction. Couldn’t fire a cannon from a canoe.
One step and a corkscrew somersault off the steps drew a collective intake of breath from those nearest. Thien whooped, Riyad laughed and a couple of people even cheered. Not bad for his first trick.
“This a party or what?” he said, spreading his arms with a grin.
Leave the thinking for tomorrow. Tonight, we dance.