"Okay ... it's time to get you back home," Tommy said after she finished her second beer.
"What? No!!" his friends shouted.
"Oh, come on, Tommy! It's not that late," Charlie whined.
He laughed, "It is for you, Birthday Girl," he stood up, extended his hand to her. "Come on, you're not supposed to be here in the first place, you're putting me on the spot here," he said.
She took his hand and stood up, "Well, okay, fair enough," she agreed. She felt a little light headed but managed to walk straight after she said goodbye to everybody.
"You comin' back here, man?" Ryan asked.
"Yeah, I'll be back."
Tommy put his hands on her waist when she wobbled, "Are you okay?"
She nodded, "I'm okay, it's the beer, I guess?" and then she laughed out loud. He lets her go as soon as she manages to steady her walk. "I never drank before in my life, I didn't know it had a really funny side effect, I mean ... I knew but I never experienced it before," she seemed to be satisfied with her accomplishment.
"Oh no, I think I've ruined you now," he joked.
"I had a really nice time, Tommy," she said, hoping that he would finally kiss her when they were alone. He smiled and looked away, he helped her mount the bike and drove her home.
Her house was eerily quiet, it was a little over four o'clock in the morning. She held his hand before entering the gate, with another hope to get a kiss from him. He leaned forward to her and kissed the top of her head. "Go on, I'll wait until you get in the house," he still couldn't bring himself to kiss her.
"Good night, Tommy," she smiled and went inside.
She tiptoed all the way inside through the back door. She had asked Mrs. Jones to leave the kitchen door unlocked. No one seemed to be awake at that hour, she thought she was home free, not realizing that Landon was watching from the guest room balcony and saw the guy on the motorbike kiss her on the head and left after she went inside.
"Is she back safe?" Samuel asked when Tommy got back.
He nodded, sat on the ground and lit a cigarette.
"You don't smoke around her?"
He shook his head, inhaled his first drag deeply.
"You gave her your necklace," it wasn't a question, more of a confirmation as if Tommy didn't realize what he had done.
"Hmm..." Tommy raised his eyebrows.
"Man, you're in deep shit, aren't you?" Tommy laughed at the sarcasm, but he couldn't agree more.
"Have you kissed her yet, Tom?" Lana asked him from the comfort of laying her head on Samuel's lap.
"Nope," he let out a long drag.
"Really?? Tom Raven hadn't kissed the girl yet?" Lana laughed at him.
"She's not like any other girl," Tommy said in his defense.
"I bet ... she's pretty cool for a Ludlow," Kelly agreed.
"I think she likes you too," Ryan added while having his arm around Kelly's neck.
"What are you going to do, man?" Samuel asked.
Tommy exhaled his last drag and put down his cigarette. "I'm gonna fix that old man Bob's cabin, you guys wanna help?"
They all went wild, teased him, but cheering at the same time, "When should we begin?" Ryan asked.
"Tomorrow, first thing," he said.
"Well, who would've thunk it? Tom Raven is in love," teased Samuel.
"Shut up," Tommy blushed beneath his poise, "Now hand me over those beers!" he added.
Old man Bob was a guy who lived alone in his cabin by the woods. Nobody really knew about his past other than he was a war veteran and didn't have any family. He lived by himself with his pension money and he welcomed the kids who lived around in the neighborhood to hang at his cabin. They used to come and play at his cabin, listening to stories of his past, bringing him food or daily necessities to help him out because his pension money wasn't enough.
The old man taught them many things, survival skills in the wild, in the world, because the world can be cruel to underprivileged kids from the slums. He also introduced them to the booze and the cigarettes, they loved old man Bob like a father they never had. Tom was especially close to him after his brother died, and his mom left. The cabin was a refuge for him whenever he got beaten by his father. Bob had to drive Greg away with his shotgun countless times whenever he came by to beat him up some more.
Bob got sick and died when Tom was 17, he left the cabin for him to use. Tom was devastated, he felt like he had lost a real father that he only knew for a short time. He hadn't been to the cabin for awhile, it was old and needed a lot of fixing, but most of all, it brought back a lot of memories and a reminder that old man Bob is not there anymore, to guide him and keep him out of trouble.
After Bob died, he had been living nowhere and everywhere, couch surfing at his friend's house or at some random girl's bed. He rarely went back to his pop's, their relationship was unrepairable. When he got delivery orders, he'd go out of town for a short period of time. Sleeping with girls had been an escape for him, short satisfying pleasures to compensate for his reckless life.
When Charlie came along, it was a wake up call for Tom. Something had to change, a lot of things had to change. He can no longer keep his way of living if he even dared to think that a girl like Charlie would want to be with a boy like him. Her very existence put him to shame, he didn't even have a place to take her, he needed to have a steady job, he needed a future, something that she deserves.