More boisterous than usual, they partied into the night at their last gathering of the summer. At one point they stood in a circle looking like a bunch of school kids on the playground rocking back and forth on the balls of their feet, teasing each other, giggling and guffawing.
A couple of the guys told off color jokes while the girls twittered. The guys were getting frisky touching (or close to it) girls who weren’t their wives while everyone laughed. The girls slapped at their hands as if it bothered them but you could tell they enjoyed the attention. Donna’s body language said, “Stay away!”
At one point the group dispersed leaving Donna to sit by herself in the gloaming smoking Kents or Trues or whatever brand she smoked at the time, perfectly happy to sit and wait for everyone’s return while nursing her umpteenth Manhattan.
Within fifteen or twenty minutes they began drifting back. Two of the guys had their arms around each other calling each other vile names then laughing loudly. The girls made fun of them with high pitched laughter.
Deac moseyed in a good 15 or 20 minutes after everyone else looking happy as a clam. Five minutes later June showed up by herself looking downhearted.
“Where were you Janey? “ the girls asked with that “sing songey” sound to their voices.
Janey stood next to Jim her arm wrapped around his waist her head against his rib cage, a forlorn, lost look on her face. She said they had walked around the block to get some fresh air. When she looked up at Jim for the kiss of reassurance, Jim gazed down at her the corners of his mouth turned up but a sad broken-hearted look in his eyes.
Deac stood behind Donna his hands on her shoulders kneading the space between her shoulder and neck smiling like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
The air went silent for a few heartbeats, so tense you could hear a croquet ball drop onto the grass.
Then, one of the guys belched loud and long. Everyone laughed, dropped back into their well-oiled selves, said good bye for the summer, good night for the night and went home.
I rode my bike home in the dark.
That night after midnight, I heard a commotion outside. Curious, I crept downstairs, across the kitchen, slowly opened the sliding glass door stepped into the screened in porch and stood in the shadows. Fifteen feet from the porch they were fighting next to a big elm tree in the back yard while I stood motionless listening to their heated exchanges. Continued.