Camille lay out on the deck, staring up at the stars and listening to the waves roll across the sand. The week had flown by, her memories of it a mental collage of swimming, games, and healing lots of people’s hangovers. It had been a good time with her friends, despite the fact that she’d spent less time with Vince than she might have otherwise preferred. He’d seemed distracted since the second day, spending more time than usual off on his own. The boy probably went on three solo runs a day. Still, that was just one fly in the ointment of a wonderful week, so she couldn’t complain that much.
There was a soft thud as the door behind her opened. People had been wandering out occasionally, letting the night air bring some clarity to their thoughts before heading back into the den of chaos. So far the night was on the tame side, but Violet had declared tonight reserved for her Centennial Club, so it wasn’t surprising that people were hesitant to pre-drink before such a booze-heavy endeavor.
“Hey.” Vince’s voice came slightly ahead of him, his familiar form drifting into Camille’s field of vision a few seconds after the word hit her ears.
“Hey yourself,” she replied. She noticed he was holding one of the many plastic cups that had been used to house beer, cocktails, and - on very rare occasions - water. “Careful; you let Violet see you walking around with a plastic cup, she’ll assume you’ve decided to drink. That makes you fair game for tonight’s challenge.”
Vince took a sip from the aforementioned cup and winced visibly. “Nick made me a screwdriver. Apparently the orange juice is supposed to mask the taste of the alcohol.”
“Oh. Does it?”
“Not with the amount Nick poured.” Vince motioned to the empty deck chair next to her. “Mind if I join you?”
“By all means.” Camille waited until he’d settled into a reclining position before asking her next question. “So, what’s weighing on your mind?”
“Am I that easy to read?”
“You’ve been a little distracted all week, which admittedly could have been you keeping away from the wild party crowd, but now you’re drinking alcohol. Last time you did that was when you were worried about losing your spot in the HCP over grades. So in summary: yes, you are very much that easy to read.”
“When you put it like that...” Vince trailed off and took another swig of his screwdriver. He shook his head after the gulp. “Sweet heaven this is awful. Want to try it?” He extended the cup to his deckchair neighbor.
“Why would I want to try something awful?”
“No idea. Seemed polite to at least offer.”
Camille accepted the plastic container but made no motion to sip from it. Instead she moved it from hand to hand as she looked out at the starlight-speckled dark sky.
“Sasha wants to get back together with me.”
“Oh.” Camille took a short sip from the cup in her hands. Vince had not exaggerated the awfulness of the vodka concoction. She put the drink back to her lips and took a much longer draw. “I’m guessing that’s confusing for you?”
“Very. I mean, I was in love with her last year when things fell apart, but once I saw how she felt about me, I really did my best to move on. I suppose deep down a part of me always hoped that she’d change her mind, but that part of me didn’t actually bother to figure out what I wanted beyond that.”
“So now that you can have her, you’re not sure if you want her?” Camille took one last guzzle and handed the now noticeably lighter cup back to Vince. With her small frame she knew she’d already downed more than was prudent, but if this conversation went the way she was anticipating, a little numbness might be worth the other effects of intoxication.
Vince laughed lightly and accepted his cup. “No, I think it would be accurate to say now that having her is a reality, not just a lonely fantasy, I have to face the real consequences of what making that choice would be.”
“Consequences like having back the girl you wanted.”
“See, that’s just it. The girl I wanted. The girl I loved. I still feel things for her, I won’t deny that, but after everything that’s happened, I’m not sure that I still want to be in a relationship with her. It’s hard to tell if I want to be with her, or I just want to be with someone.”
“That doesn’t sound like you at all.”
“Everyone gets lonely, Camille. I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that sometimes the desire to just have someone to be with is there, even if you don’t have a particular someone in mind.”
“No, I suppose you’re right. It’s human nature, and even we not-quite-human freaks aren’t immune.”
“Freaks,” Vince said, tasting the word before washing it away with the remainder of his drink. “I hate that word.”
Camille realized her faux pas immediately. “Vince, I’m sorry. That was just a bad choice of words, I didn’t mean anything by it.”
He looked over at her and gave his reassuring smile. “I know you didn’t. You’ve never once treated any of us like we were different just because we used to be Powereds. I bet you would have been nice to us even if we weren’t Supers.” Vince turned back to the sky and put his hands behind his head. “No, I hate that word for different reasons. When I was traveling around I heard people talking about Supers a lot, and that was the most common word they used. Freaks. They said it with so much anger and contempt, this whole unacknowledged sentiment of hate directed toward people just for the way they were born. People think being a Powered is hard, and it is, but the world usually looked at us with annoyance or pity. People who could control their abilities, they were the ones who were despised.”
Camille nodded, not trusting herself to talk. Too many memories of her life before meeting Vince were trying to bubble up in her mind, aided a bit by the generous dose of vodka now working through her system. Camille understood how people hated Supers. She understood very well.
“Sorry, I guess I went off on a ramble there,” Vince said. “Anyway, I’ve spent the week trying to figure out what to do about Sasha, and all I’ve managed is to make myself more confused, so tonight I’m going the opposite direction and trying not to think. Hence my letting Nick make me a drink. I’ll try not to burden you with loss of stomach control this time, at least.”
He gave her a playful wink, and just like that the serious cloud that had settled over them was dispelled. Camille’s bad memories faded back into the recesses of her subconscious, replaced by the shining one of when she’d first looked up at the stalwart man now sitting across from her.
“If you do then you’re in deep trouble, because I doubt I’ll be in any shape to help.”
“Screwdriver already hitting you that hard?”
“No, but the many shots of beer I’m about to take will probably push me way over the edge. Let’s go tell Violet we’re playing along.”
“Is that a good idea? Neither of us is a really heavy drinker.”
“No, it’s a terrible idea, but I think we’re both responsible enough to be allowed one of those on occasion. Besides, we won’t try to do the whole thing, just what we can manage.” The small girl pulled herself up the chair and looked down at Vince, tapping her foot against the wooden floor of the deck.
“Yup, this is a horrible idea,” Vince said, grinning as he rose up and followed her back into the ruckus of the house.