Here’s some more After. The last scene was a version of the first one I wrote for Scout and Kit — this is the first one I ever wrote for Jamie and Lucas. I wrote this so long ago I have no perspective on it whatsoever — so long ago, in fact, that my cat is named after the character and not the other way around.
(Feel free to give me feedback on which of these word-worlds you like more. I’m feckless and easily swayed.)
The sun smeared across the sky like a frying egg. A handful of scrawny, flyblown cattle milled listlessly in the dirty brown scrub, tails twitching.
“Where the fuck,” Jamie called, “have you been?” Sweat was collecting in the curls behind his ears, dripping into the neck of his shirt. It was so hot he felt par-baked.
Lucas didn’t bother to reply, working his way through the gap in the fence. The horses, grazing at the burned remains of the grass, started away from him. Lucas stopped and turned towards them, shading his eyes with one hand. Tucker raised the big wedge of his head, and they seemed to look at each other a moment before Tucker stamped backwards, almost tangling Sugar in the long-line that stretched between two bare, stunted trees.
“Hey,” Jamie said. “Dick. I’m talking to you.”
Lucas nodded to him, like, I can see that. He was shirtless and his hair was wet. He dropped the soft little corpse of a rabbit beside the remains of the fire and disappeared inside their tent. “Put some shoes on,” Jamie said to him, because otherwise he wouldn’t.
Jamie was rolling a smoke when Lucas reemerged. “I’m just asking,” Jamie said, popping a match under his nail. “Headcount’s fine, but you’re the one who’s anal about leaving the beef.”
Lucas looked at him, and his expression made Jamie raise his hands in surrender. His little brother was all angles: sharp nose, sharp chin, sharp teeth. He pushed his wet hair back, wiping his hands on his shirt before lifting the hem to rub it over his face. Underneath it, his stomach was stained in streaks of rusty brown.
Jamie gave it up as a bad job — he got like this, Lucas — and hunkered into his knees, poking at last night’s fire.
Lucas’s nose twitched as he lowered himself down beside Jamie, still barefoot. He moved slowly, his voice raspy and stilted like he’d just woken up. “Where were you?” he asked mildly. Then, “is there anything to eat?”
Jamie threw him a crumpled paper bag. “I was gettin’ lucky, kid.” He thought about Coco’s hair. That crooked grin. “So fuckin’ lucky.”
“Maybe that’s where I was, too,” Lucas said, unrolling the top of the bag. His face brightened as he discovered the donuts, and Jamie watched him demolish one in two bites, sugar puffing down his chest.
“Doubt it,” Jamie said. “You didn’t have any money.”
“Ha ha,” Lucas said, unimpressed. He pulled a second donut out of the bag and looked at it, face unreadable.
Jamie tapped ash into the little charred pit of their fire. “We’d better go.”
“Yeah.” Lucas put the donut back in the bag. He winced as he straightened from his crouch. He was always paler than Jamie, but today he looked clammy and off-white, the spray of freckles across his nose like ink spatter on eggshell.
Jamie looked at him for a long minute. “You okay, bro?”
“Fine.” Lucas shrugged, moving away from him. “Not hungry.”
“Uh-huh,” Jamie said, flicking the end of his cigarette into the circle of ash. They hadn’t had donuts since before they’d crossed the fence, over a month ago. “If you say so.”