Half Dollars – Part One
Looking back on their relationship, it’s hard to believe their first real conversation was over Heat.
It was Eugene’s favorite film, and she never got through it once. Yes, it was 3 hours, but she was the one who always complained about “modern attention spans”. Apparently, the film had too many cop cliches. Kayleigh, whose favorite genre was the slasher, complained about cliches. Still, every time Eugene watched the film, he thought of her. He loved her, after all. It was the first time either of them loved anybody.
It’s weird, though. They were making fun of each other before they even met. Eugene was better known by “De Santa” to most people, after the lacrosse coaches decided to call him by his last name. That’s who he was to the sports kids, the student government kids, the cool kids, and the kids who just sort of existed.
Kayleigh was not any of these people. Eugene and his friends would pass her in the hallway sometimes. She hung out at the intersection between the main hallway and the one that leads to the backstage area. Eugene’s friends (Trevor, mostly) would think of all the quote-unquote “weird shit” she does at home by herself. Eugene always felt the need to somewhat come to her defense and say: “She just blasts shitty emo bands until their mom comes home. It’s not that interesting.” Even if she was the weird kid to him, he wasn’t going to tell lies about her for a laugh. Music and her laptop was really all she cared about, and he only knew that because he was over her house all the time. He was dating her sister, after all.
Madeline Teller was Kayleigh’s fraternal twin and semi-opposite. Field hockey player. Promising debate student. Not the hardest worker, but she had plenty of natural talent. Both she and Eugene knew who the better athlete really was. The two started hanging out in freshman year, but really connected over the summer. They shared a lifestyle: Sports. School. Hang out. During the summer, “school” was replaced with “lifeguarding”. Obviously, as Kayleigh would say.
Eugene’s considers his first “mature” conversation to be with Maddy. They had it over Everything Pizza Slices at Louie’s.
“So what if field hockey doesn’t work out?” he asked her.
“I don’t know. Probably be a veterinarian or something.”
He didn’t much like veterinarians, but still:
“Nothing. It’s cool.”
“Well you took a little while to say it.”
“No, it’s just, like… I’m just thinking of the time my old dog ate a brownie, and they had to check his stool. You know how they do that, right?”
“Yes, Eugene, I know how they do that.”
“You okay with that?”
“I-” she sighed. “I’m wearing gloves, right?”
“Then, yeah! It’s fine.”
“Yes, Eugene, oh my god!”
Eugene smiled at her. He knew his smile could light up a room. Or at least turn the power back on.
“What do you wanna do?”
“I don’t know. I got Lacrosse, but…”
He wanted to say yes, but deep down, he knew he didn’t.
“…I’ll think of something.” he finished. “I kinda like chemistry.
“Yeah. Mixing two things together. Seeing what shows up. It’s cool.”
“Have you taken it yet?”
“Nah. I’m taking it next year. Seeing what happens.”
“Yeah.” They always say Junior year is the hardest. “I don’t know. I’ll think of something.”
He was always worried about what he was going to do with his life, but when he was talking to Maddy, that felt alright. It wasn’t like talking to his parents, where he had to think of an entire life plan just to keep them somewhat satisfied.
He hung out at Maddy’s house at least 3 days a week, one of which was always Saturday. Kayleigh was always around. Sometimes she had her friend with her, but for the most part, she was by herself. Eugene always said hi to her, and Kayleigh always responded: “she’s upstairs”.
That was how their relationship worked the first two months. “Hey, Kayleigh.” “She’s upstairs.” If Eugene was in a good mood, he’d make fun of her for not being polite. Other than that, that was how they knew each other. That is, until a Sunday in mid-October, where he saw what she was watching.
Well, almost watching. She had the tv on while she surfed the web on her laptop. Eugene always envied that. He’d always get distracted.
“You watching this?”
It took her a few seconds to look up from her computer.
“You’re watching Heat.”
“Oh. No, Halloween was on. It just ended.”
“They go from Halloween to Heat?”
“It’s AMC. They’ve done weirder.” she said. “So this is an action movie?”
“A crime saga, Kayleigh? Ok?” a little bit of irony tinged his voice. “It’s my favorite movie, you know.”
It was the beginning. Men in hockey masks shooting each other.
“Yeah, that sounds about right. Looks kinda dumb.”
Kayleigh just glared at him. For some reason, he was the only one who found that glare funny.
“Maddy’s in the bathroom, actually. Hopefully she’ll be out soon.”
“I love you too, Kayleigh.” he replied.
Maddy came out of the bathroom. Eugene caught a whiff of Febreze on her.
“What are you guys talking about?”
“She’s watching Heat!” Eugene said.
“Oh.” Maddy replied. She knew all about Heat. “You don’t have to watch it, Kayleigh.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
“Psh. You guys suck.” Eugene said. Maybe if it wasn’t four hours with commercials, she’d give it a chance.
“So my mom’s making pizza bagels,” Maddy warned Eugene as they walked up the stairs. “Sorry she’s so lazy.”
“Please, she’s your Mom. She can be lazy. She’s got you two to handle. Don’t even like Heat.”
Maddy rolled her eyes at him. She gave her own glare, but it was much friendlier.
Downstairs, he could still hear the movie going. Kayleigh may not have been paying attention to the film, but she hadn’t turned it off.