Chapter 17. And here... we... go.
Last chapter recap:
Then I began walking back to the locker room. And Austin began walking next to me. “9:00, Nick,” he said, almost casually, “Don’t forget.”
I kicked the ground in front of me like there was some kind of imaginary soccer ball. Like I could possibly forget about that. Yeah, right.
I'm not superstitious. At all. When people say 'Friday the thirteenth' I think of a crappy movie where the blonde girl dies first. Eliza's blonde too... I shook my head to get back on track. I digress. I never really believed the whole to-do about breaking mirrors and talking to black cats. I think that's because my dad started showing me horror movies when I was five, and he'd always point out the fake blood and cliché plot lines. I had to sleep with a night-light until I was ten. But as I got in my car to drive to Austin's house, it immediately started down pouring. It was hard not to see that as an omen.
The only thing I could think about on my way to Austin's house was how stupid I was to kiss Eliza in her pool. We were secluded from her neighbors, way on the edge of town and basically the existence of humanity, but we were outside. We didn't have the privacy of the school roof or the O'Connor's kitchen or Eliza's bedroom. I was an idiot. I'd made a mistake. And I would have to deal with the consequences.
I pulled into Austin's driveway at 9:15. As a general rule, I never get to Austin's house on time. I especially never show up early. Austin runs fifteen minutes later than normal human beings, so my 9:15 is his 9:00. In Austin's world, I was on time.
We discovered that Austin always runs precisely fifteen minutes late back in sixth grade, when surprise birthday parties were still a thing. It was on January 10th. My twelfth birthday - Carter and Austin were apparently getting people together to surprise me. They told everyone to be at Carter's house by 6:00 and they told me to get there at 6:15. I got there the same time as Austin, who was carrying a colorful net of balloons and three, crisply wrapped presents. Needless to say,I wasn't very surprised when I walked into Carter's dining room and everyone jumped out at me.
I didn't see his parents' car in the driveway, and I figured Austin and I would probably have the whole place to ourselves. That might have been a good thing. I didn't know what was about to go down... shouting, fighting, shots... (if there were shots I hoped they'd be of the alcoholic variety. Not the ballistic kind. That was about the best I could hope for.) But whatever would happen, at least it would stay between Austin and me. No one else – not his parents, not Carter, not Eliza – would be involved. At least for the time being.
I rang the doorbell and Austin answered it after about forty seconds, about how long it takes to save a COD game. He gave me a quick 'sup, man?', too quick for me to see the look on his face... too quick to give me even the slightest idea of what was about to happen... and we immediately hit up his basement. The Banks’ basement is Austin's signature man cave. His house is about the same size as mine, which is about half the size of Carter's. Average. Four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Austin's basement is a lot nicer than mine though, seeing as he actually has one. He has a TV the size of a golden retriever who just got back from the groomers, a foosball table, and some bean bag chairs. It's not Carter's basement, but it's a solid place to chill.
Austin tossed me a Root Beer from this fridge his father has had since he was a kid, and we both sat down around his empty card table. I felt like we were in some kind of secret meeting, except instead of being in a pitch black nightclub, we were in a well-lit, relatively safe room with beige walls and wooden furniture. Not exactly your typical drug dealer, hit man, or mob boss hang out scene. Not a good place to hide a body, either.