Trajan had gotten in the habit of waiting with Bunny for his uncle’s van to pull up, stood in the dark alongside his childhood friend whether he was planning to ride home with them or not. This way he could eliminate the possibility of crossing paths with them some distance from the library, giving away his whereabouts outside the list of sanctioned activities, Coach Beckford’s approval a minor consideration amid a long list of more imminent concerns.
“You going to see Carmen?” Bunny asked.
Trajan wagged an in-between nod with his head, unwilling to commit one way or the other on the prospect of seeing Carmen.
“I’m beginning to grow on her friend Maria. Wouldn’t you say?” Bunny inquired. Like a fungal infection, Trajan thought.
“Are you heading straight home afterward?” Bunny continued to press.
Trajan gave another head wag, recognizing the sudden creep in interest, Bunny angling for an invitation to tag along. He toed the curved tail of his skateboard, let the board roll away from him before catching it with his foot. “I might just hang around town,” he said. “Cruise past the shop windows, see what’s new.” Mention of cruising was intended to put Bunny off any ideas he had of joining Trajan for the night. Bunny was a homebody, preferred the remote stillness of Preston to any amount of bustle in town. Trajan didn’t need the company, plus Bunny had never been much of a skateboarder. He trailed behind on foot, Trajan resisting every urge to ditch his little buddy, take a sharp downhill turn and place serious distance between the two of them.
The Otis Library sits at the base of downtown Norwich, ensnared in a maze of one-way streets leading to and from the marina in every direction. Trajan took the short walk up Franklin Street after Bunny and his uncle pulled away from the curb, his skateboard dangling by his side. Standing high atop the river valley, the world was his oyster. A roll in the direction of Mohegan Park led to the high school. A short push farther along Washington Street brought him to the neighborhood where Carmen and her parents lived. A glance in the opposite direction revealed Norwichtown, marked by a dense cluster of light shimmering in the distance. Rosalie lived farther still, on the way to Bozrah. Trajan left his skateboard at home anytime he was planning to see her. A plaything, it stood in the way of the adult thing they were attempting to do, drew unneeded attention to the countless gaps between them, the difference in age in many regards the least among them.
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