(if you’re here for the first time look at excerpts 1-20 in earlier Blogs )
The cars were pulled up on both sides of the grassy street as Craig and Maddie arrived at the party on Saturday. It was a midsummer bash in full swing in the old Shorewood Hills neighborhood near Lake Mendota. As they walked up the long driveway they saw groups milling about the lawns and porch. Dr. Pinkerton and his wife had apparently been renting out the old Victorian house to graduate students for the past twenty years. There was a hammock under the willow trees to one side and a volleyball net set up on the lawn. People were standing around with plastic cups or plates of food in their hands.
Lisa came walking up to Maddie with her boyfriend, Ernie. Ernie barely made eye contact. It was clear he was uncomfortable with his surroundings. Maddie was surprised that Lisa had even managed to bring him. Usually, when Ernie showed up Lisa disappeared for the weekend, because Ernie preferred it that way. She could count on the fingers of one hand the times she’d seen him. And she didn’t feel she knew him at all.
“There’s food inside,” Lisa said, “Tons of it. Just go in and help yourselves. Nice meeting you, Craig.”
Maddie was still getting her bearings but she saw Craig was already making himself at home near the beer keg, reaching for a plastic cup. As she went inside to deposit her covered dish, Maddie’s eyes were drawn to a boisterous commotion off to one side. It seemed the guys had rigged up a makeshift Jacuzzi on the back driveway, in front of the little carriage house, and several bodies were lounging in it. As her eyes zoomed in, she saw John Pitts, flanked by Savannah and Jean. He seemed oblivious to anything but the fun of the moment and the two bikini-clad women next to him. Trust John Pitts to be in the middle of anything even slightly hedonistic, she thought.
John had seen Maddie coming up the driveway before she’d seen him. He’d also noticed immediately the tall, good looking black guy by her side. Good looking was an understatement. If he wasn’t mistaken, that guy would be considered by most women to be a hunk. Was he her boyfriend? When he saw her going into the house he realized that his cup was almost empty and it was time to go get a refill. He stood up against protests from Savannah and Jean and got out of the Jacuzzi, making a b-line for the keg. An eager beaver filled up his place in the Jacuzzi immediately but he didn’t care. He had a purpose.
“Hi, I’m John Pitts, welcome to the party,” he said, extending his hand.
Craig shook it. “Thanks, I’m Craig Berry. This your pad, man?”
“Yeah, me and a couple of other guys. You come with your girlfriend?” John asked, casually.
“I’m here with Maddie Hawkins. Do you know her?”
John noticed he hadn’t quite answered the question. “Yeah, sure, I know Maddie. She just started this year. I guess none of us have known her that long, though.”
“Oh, well,” Craig countered, “Maddie and I go way back. We went to high school together, you know.”
“No kidding! Now let me guess. I bet Maddie graduated at the top of her class,” John said, looking for any kind of information.
“Pretty close, man, she was the Evanston High School salutatorian.”
“Wow! I wonder what nerd beat her out of the valedictorian spot.”
“Well, now, that would be me,” Craig answered. Then he laughed good-naturedly.
“Sorry, man,” John said.
They continued their friendly conversation for a while and John was able to glean a few more bits of information. Namely, that Craig Berry was currently pursuing his doctorate in astrophysics. He was president of the UW Black Caucus and from some allusions made to Maddie’s parents, John gathered that he was a friend of her family. But John was never able to find out for sure if he and Maddie were “together.”
When Maddie came out of the house, carrying two plates of food, she swayed on the steps. Both men noticed her at the same time.
“Whoa, there.” John rushed forward to help her with the screen door. He held her elbow as she came down the steps. Maddie focused her attention immediately on Craig.
“Craig, honey, I brought you a plate” she said, smiling and dripping charm.
“Hey girl, you know what I need,” he said. “I’ll have to keep you around.”
“Oh, were you thinking of getting rid of me?” she answered.
John excused himself, telling them to enjoy the party, and moved away.
He’d had his worst fears confirmed. The way she had ignored him when he helped her and had headed straight for Craig, the way she had lovingly brought him a plate, and their exchange of words, all spoke of two people who were very close.
John found that he was in a foul mood. Consequently, he threw himself into the party and proceeded to show he was having the most fun of anyone there. He chased the screaming bikini clad girls in a water fight, played volleyball harder than on an official court and drank more beer than anybody.
When Craig and Maddie left in the shadow of twilight, John watched from the hammock. He sighed involuntarily and found that he felt tired and deflated. He made a mental note to tone down his goofing around a little; otherwise, there were a couple of women who might think he was looking to get laid tonight. The fact of the matter was that he had no interest in getting laid at all.
Maddie, who drank no alcoholic beverage at the party, took in everything like a sponge. When she had come out of the house carrying two plates she had seen John speaking to Craig. John was standing, arms crossed over his chest, in nothing but dripping-wet cut-off jeans. The physical attraction which she was unable to feel for Craig she seemed to have in abundance for John. She nearly lost her balance and dropped the food from the impact of the vision he presented, and the effort of will it took to resist that force. She had played the coquette with Craig out of irritation with herself for what she felt.
Throughout the afternoon, even though she played volleyball with gusto, she felt that she was too uptight. At least too uptight for the likes of John Pitts. She got tired of hearing people say “Oh, look at John,” when he was up to one of his antics. He never picked her as a partner for one of his schemes, but there seemed to be no end to the women who were willing to chase him, swing in the hammock with him and jump into the Jacuzzi with him. Yet she was torn between relief and regret when Craig suggested well after eight that they leave and go catch a quiet movie.
GLOBAL BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION!
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QUESTION 21: What’s wrong with Maddie?
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