Liza swished her feet through the lukewarm pool water. The chatter around her melded with the pulsing baseline coming from inside the house behind her. The sun had just set, leaving a faint glow on the trees that shadowed the horizon. She took a swig of beer and rested the bottle beside her.
Took an early flight. Twelve-hour difference. Will call when we find a phone.
Love, Mom and Dad
She crumbled the note up and threw it into the water, letting her hands grip the pool’s rough concrete edges. Jordan and Max ran by her in a flash, and she watched her friends join a group on the artificial lawn spread out across her backyard.
“Aren’t you afraid they’re gonna...”
She twisted her head to see a guy standing above her. A friend of a friend, she thought. At least one random person always appeared at her house parties. Usually curious kids from neighboring towns. She had gotten used to the unfamiliar faces. He didn’t look like he was from California, his skinny legs stark white against his khakis. Probably followed David home from college on the east coast. “What? Hurt themselves?” she said.
“I was gonna say blow something up.”
“Eh, we’re outside the blast radius.”
A bang went off beside the guy’s feet, a popper thrown by Max who snickered as he jumped. The guy flipped him off. “You might want to rethink your line of trust with him around,” he said. He sat down next to her, crossing his legs and placing his cup down. “Does this always happen?”
“You mean my friends smuggling two boxes of illegal fireworks across the border and into my backyard, only to set them off for the whole world to see?” Jordan ran across the lawn with a high-pitched squeal as Max chased her with a fist full of sparklers. Through the glaze of darkness settling over the scene, Liza could see several bodies crouched low, fumbling with matches besides two rocket blasters and arguing about which direction to shoot them off. “No, this is new.”
“I meant does this always happen?” He motioned to the group. “This shared insanity?”
“I like to think of it as a contagious fearlessness,” she said.
“And you just let them do it?”
“Keeps me on my toes.”
Max threw more poppers on to the porch. They hit with fizzy crackles and let off golden firefly sparks that were gone as soon as they came.
“You’re Liza, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Only my friends call me that.”
“Maybe we can be friends.”
Her corkscrew curls tumbled over her shoulders as she nodded. “That can be arranged.” She made waves in the water with her feet, the ripples distorting her reflection. “What’s your name?”
“Which one did you come with?”
“The mildly sober one in the corner.” He pointed to David who stumbled to the ground beside the boxes. “And not so sober anymore.”
The group fell back as a rocket launched into the trees with a stream of underwhelming green. Liza broke into pitiful applause. Max cursed and dove back into the boxes. A breeze carried the lack luster smoke towards them, creating a haze above the pool. The acidic smell burned her nose.
“You must live a pretty boring life,” Kurt said.
“That’s a big assumption.”
“Those who create excitement are deficient in it.” He looked to the group. “They’re just trying to fill their voids.”
Liza swallowed a gulp of beer. “I’m not trying to blow anything up.”
“But you’re an accomplice. The location provider.” He swiveled around to face the towering glass doors of the house. The panes reflected their silhouettes against the wavy blue pool and golden illuminated interior. “You grew up here?”
She nodded, her eyes focused on the living room, a stark white showroom with a stiff couch and shiny glass-top tables. No proof of her family ever living there. She was the only one that ever did. Sometimes, she thought her parents kept the house just for her sake, to give her something to come home to during the summer. Where else would she go? She hated the idea of staying in her dorm, the room with its uniform wooden furniture and fluorescent lights, all temporary in function. It was like being in a hotel; not for living, just for pausing. Those four walls weren’t, and would never be, home. She stared up at the house. Not like this would be either.
“Your parents don’t mind you hosting parties?”
“They don’t mind me at all.”
“Where are they?”
“I think this week was Bangkok. You could check the itinerary on the kitchen counter.”
“Why aren’t you with them?”
“I needed a break.”
“Take it on a beach in Bangkok.”
“Do you know where Bangkok is?”
“It’s not suburban Pennsylvania.”
She sighed. “It’s summer.”
“I wanted to be here. With them.” A triumphant chorus rang out from the lawn as three yellow pinwheels exploded over the fence. Liza let out a howl and got to her feet.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Getting a good seat for the show.”
Her bare feet plopped through the puddles, leaving dark prints on the sandstone and breaking into a run once they hit the plush landscape. Kurt followed her, and they stood on the lawn as the bursts ignited air and left trails of sulfured smoke that made their noses wrinkle. Max shoved a bunch of sparklers into Liza’s hand, illuminating her face in the darkness. She beamed and twirled around with the chrome colored sparks, painting the air as she moved faster and faster. Kurt watched her with his arms crossed over his chest and marveled at the fire-wielding conductor leading the orchestra of explosions behind her. She dropped the sticks after a few seconds as the low-reaching sparks began to burn her fingers. The burnt-out batons signaled the end of the show, the bursts replaced by still, hazy air.
“Yo, Jorden said there’s more fireworks in her car. Come help us,” David said as he ran up them. They watched Max gallop by with an empty box filling his arms. “Oh, Liza, this is Kurt. He’s a friend.”
“So, I’ve been told,” she replied. David smiled and jogged off into the house. After a few seconds, Kurt began following in his direction. “What are you doing?”
“Helping keep you on your toes. Your void isn’t gonna fill itself.”