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Luca and the Boy with the Thorn in His Side

By Christopher Ward


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He watched her across the viewfinder, like a moth

surrounded by a ball of light. She wore a short, and

her sun-dyed hair tied back pristinely, though he

preferred it when she wore it down as it beautified

her, even more so, and filled him with an unnamed

passion, his heart drumming wildly, and his mind

racing with anarchic thoughts.


His nights were spent replaying shakey images of her

as she sat alone, closely examining her flawless

beauty, her hair jumping slightly as she walked

proudly past his home, schoolbag slung over her taut



She gazed up toward the 6 foot figure with an ardent

admiration akin to a child watching the dizzying

movements of a roller coaster. Craig had noticed she

was more in awe of him then he was of her, and he

understood why this was so. He had just recently

pulled up in his car, and with a steady eye Craig

followed his movements out of his Ford and into the

arms of his girlfriend.


Being this close to her created chaos inside of him

that was close to insanity. The film of his vision

clouded with possible sentences, conversational

pieces, actions, intentions. The suggestions bursting

into his mind in one quick motion. As he took her

hand and listened to them talk, he lowered his head

and used a scruffy shoe to toy with a small rock.

"Forget the bus, I'll give you a lift." He motioned

to his car and pulled her toward it.


"Okay, fine, but I am not going back to your house

today. I have homework to do." She moved to kiss

him, causing him to jerk his head away quickly. He

smiled, and climbed into his car.


"I'm playing a game against Northlands this weekend."

The music from the car drowned out anything else that

was said before his tyres screeched and the couple

sped away at an insane speed.


When the bus finally arrived, Craig was redefining his

jealousy as an ever-growing hatred. A hatred which

had begun life as a deflated balloon, limp and

lifeless, but which was growing with every slight puff

of air. Apathy became dislike, which soon became a

burly balloon of hate.


He kicked the stone he had been toying with, and

boarded a bus, one filled with sweaty school-kids and

tired-looking pensioners.


The tapes were all marked 'Zoe', with a different

number accompanying it, and they lined the cabinets of

his bedroom. He picked one of them as he kicked off

his shoes, throwing himself onto the bed and eyeing

the TV set.


Her image flickered across the screen, the soundtrack

of noisy cars and squawking birds accompanying her

graceful pose. As he watched her body move within his

unflinching frame, he talked to her. Random

compliments falling out of his mouth, involuntarily,

his lips curled almost in a smile.


He soon buried his head in his hands and whimpered



He used grubby hands to brush back dirty blonde hair

in one strong swoop, and eyed a childhood scar on his

knee, protruding from a skinny leg. He was catapulted

back in time, to years past, where laughter was heard

accompanying happy voices, as he swung stupidly from a

tall tree. And when a girl passed by with tan skin

and blonde hair, all he did was continue to swing, his

uncontrollable laughter piercing the surrounding

quietness, feeling the smooth bark of the tree against

his dirt-laden skin.


On the third floor of an apartment complex in an area

of the city which was left for those with a less than

average income. She lived with her mother, a small

eccentric woman who had divorced her husband little

over one year past, and was determined to succeed with

little, against all the odds.


The husband and father's visits were sporadic and

badly-timed, seeming to almost always lead to

confrontations with the new boyfriend. Egos and

alcohol had lead to many a situation, Luca watching on

with dull eyes which sat in a pale face almost clouded

with died-black hair, hanging wildly.


"You only come here to fight with her"" Her voice

gruff, she held back her tears.


"Luca, stay out of this. This is private!"


"How can it be private when you're both making enough

noise to wake up the neighbours?!"


"Luca to your room, please."


"We hardly see you, and when we do it always leads to

a fight. You're only supposed to be here to see me."

A tear slid down her face, tickling it, before she

brought up a hand and wiped it away. "You make me so

sad. You never stop hurting me." She said these

words walking toward her room, slamming the door. A

framed picture popped out of its holding and fell to

the ground, shattering loudly.


"This is my moment, this is my moment, this is my

moment." Hushed words he spoke as he eyed her



He thought endlessly about how to initiate

conversation, and initially they all sounded

acceptable, but the more times he recited them in his

over-critical mind, the less acceptable they sounded,

and the more insipid he thought they became. He

watched with bated breath as the boyfriend arrived,

and as he clasped her hand, then swinging them



Next Monday, he thought. He would see her again next

Monday. There would always be another opportunity.

He had seen him kissing her on a chilly September

morning, adjacent from a bustling shopping complex.,

their bodies appearing then disappearing, the traffic

abominably, but typically treacherous, and this

obstructed Craig's view.


The kisser was Antonio, but the one being kissed was

definitely not Luca, but a taller brunette, with a

glaringly green school uniform, and a shorter skirt

that was a long way away from reaching her knees.

Antonio moved away from her, but their hands remained

locked. She pulled him back for one more kiss, and

then he left her side. Craig's darting eyes focused

on the two, each in turn, for several minute before

they were both out of sight.


The day Antonio had stopped appearing Luca called his

home, her heart pounding, her cheeks flushed,

expecting the worst, preparing herself for a

confrontation she knew she was too weak to handle

successfully. Her sweaty hands clutched the phone,

biting her lower lip and taking deep breaths in the

vein hope that they would calm her down.

"No, I mean, no. What's this all about?" His voice

was calm. Almost smug. Undeservedly smug, as always.

"You didn't show today. Why not? Where were you?"

"I can't be your personal fucking taxi service all the

time, Luca. Give me a bit of a break." No longer

calm, his voice was agitated. She could picture him

making ferocious movements with his hands as he talked

to her.


"If you didn't like picking me up after school all you

had to do was say. I don't mind catching the bus."

"I have to go." Was his response.


Silence for an eternity.


"Antonio, what's wrong with you?" Why are you

treating me this way? You've been treating me like

this for way too long now. I want to know what I've

done wrong. Whatever I have done to upset you, I am

sorry. Forgive me, please."


"Let's just forget this."


"Forget what? Us?"




"Antonio we can work out whatever it if that's wrong

with me. I can change. I will change. I give you my



"Zoe, we, uhm, we are no longer. I am sorry. You

understand?" Silence before he shot upright in his

seat, clutching the phone so tight his hand had turned

an insane shade of red. "Luca! I mean Luca! Shit!"

"I knew it." She could hear his slow breathing, as her

eyes swelled up.


"Oh, Luca, so what? We're young. I can't be tied

down to one fucking person."


"I've lost my flavour now you're spitting me out."

"Luca, " he sighed, and a few seconds passed before he

spoke again, as if contemplating whether or not to say

it. "I wish you'd had a flavour to begin with."

He hung up and she listened to the dull buzz of the

phone line for what seemed to be an eternity. She

thought about this conversation, thought about it for

the first time in a series of recollections. She knew

this conversation would haunt her mind during

sleepless nights and meals she wasn't hungry enough to



She looked around her bleak room where posters of

obscure rock bands graced the walls. Walking toward

the window she opened the blinds, and grimaced at the

protruding sun. She shut them just as quickly and

made her way to the bathroom, where she opened a

cabinet and examined its contents.


In the quietness of the bathroom she could just about

make out her mother's voice.


"I heard her opening the cabinet."


"Watch her. Keep an eye on her." This gruff voice

could only have belonged to her mother's boyfriend.

"We do not want a situation like last month."


She made her way to her bedroom. Lying on her bed and

staring at the ceiling, she lost herself in a sea of

thoughts as she listened to the consistent buzzing of

the light overhead.


Angry dogs barked endlessly behind high electronic

gates. The echoes of their noises bounced around the

neighbourhood, welcoming those dressed for what was to

be a sickeningly hot night, with a cloudless sky and

and lack of even so much as a hint of a breeze.

As Luca adorned herself with cheap make-up, Craig was

picking out a shirt from the hamper. He eyed a small

stain suspiciously, before putting it on and hunting

for a pair of jeans.


They both eyed themselves in the mirror, staring

motionlessly. Luca fingered acne, cursing its

persistence. Their minds were host to much craziness

as their unflinching reflection stared back at them in

the cold, darkened space of their respective bedrooms.




"You're going out tonight? Where?"


"With friends." Telling parents too much was akin to

shooting yourself in the foot. Craig made his way to

the front door, moving quickly.


"Tell us where you are going." This again from the



"The movies, Dad. The movies." He slammed the door

behind him and raced down the steps to the garden



Luca was out the door at almost the same time,

descending the flight of stairs which lead to the

gates of her apartment. The keys she toyed with

jangled noisily as she let herself out, walking down

the path to the exit, meeting someone on the way and

choosing to stare at her moving feet as she passed the

middle-aged woman, clutching a cane and a small bag.

Her heart beat noisily, the sound it made almost

blocking out the noises the world made around her.

Their hair was wet from sweat, shirts unbuttoned and

underarms drenched. Their laughter and screamed words

created a sound of anarchy, juxtaposed against the

heavy petting which the better-looking kids engaged

in, next to the pool, under the snooker table, and an

in the semi-private quarters, of which there were few.

The party had only commenced and already the sight was

anarchic. Music vibrated the room, sounds from

randomly-placed speakers eliminated most audible



Antonio walked in and greeted the room, high-fiving a

sixteen year old with short blonde hair, who spat beer

when he talked, bursting his words out as if there

were a time limit.


"I miss anything?"


"Samantha's giving blow-jobs in the back room in about

fifteen minutes. Couple of bucks a time, I hear."

"Good thing I got to her before she started charging."

Antonio nudged his friend, and they both laughed.

Zoe turned back to her boyfriend and smiled her sweet

innocent smile, baring perfect teeth.


"What are you two talking about?"


He smiled, ignoring her question, bending down to talk

directly in her ear.


"Want a beer?" She nodded after short deliberation,

and he left her side, squeezing through the crowd,

greeting people as he went.


Craig paced aimlessly outside, head hanging low, as if

searching for something on the pavement. He looked up

occasionally, daring himself to go in. He checked his

reflection in the window of a car, smiling weakly, and

patting his hair down.


He turned his camera in the direction of the noise.

Zooming in and out, his fingers toying with the many

buttons on his camcorder. He looked inside the

viewfinder, and found a strange comfort staring at the

black and white images of his surroundings. Clutching

the camera tightly, his hands soon turned sticky with



A plump girl with a bad complexion passed through the

frames as he breathed in deeply and made his first

steps toward the driveway, in the direction of the

event. They avoided making eye contact with each

other, walking slightly apart, almost unaware of the

other person's presence, both pre-occupied with the

trivial pursuit of seeming relaxed and self-assured.

He caught another glimpse of himself in one of the

windows of the house, and cringed before turning away



Craig sat down in a corner of the room and watched two

people play fight over the alleged rules of the game

of pool. Below the table two teens were slaves to

their hormones, their bodies meshed together in a

frenzied fit of passion. From across the room someone

called a boy's name, to which a response came from the

girl under the table.


"He's busy!" They both relaxed for a few seconds and

smiled, before unleashing a crazy spate of laughter

which reduced them to insane wrecks.


A noisy rock band threw out a poem about love as Craig

watched Zoe walk into the room and sit down next to

her boyfriend, admiring her awesome sight and

overwhelming elegance. He unflinchingly watched them

kiss, their eyes closed and hands wandering, trying to

contain his repulsion as he listened to his heart pump

blood threw his veins. It was as if the world was

moving at the incorrect speed, creating his own

surreal universe where sound was muffled and vision

selective. He was living behind a kaleidoscope,

transfixed by the swirling imagery, almost nauseous as

he watched the two and only people, in the centre of

his crazy vision.


Luca had joined the people in the pool house, a

well-lit and spacious part of the house which

contained a bar and another stereo system atop a

table. Nervously watching the crowd, she fingered a

bottle of beer, keeping her head still, merely moving

her eyes, clouded in black mascara.


Thoughts of Antonio made her weak, tightening the knot

in the pit of her stomach.


"Luca!" A voice from outside the pool house. She

battled to see who it was until they had entered the

room, swaying from side to side and spilling beer they

held in their hand.


"Oh, Caroline." The hand which wasn't carrying the

drink was joined to the hand of a spikey-haired

mature-looking boy with tan, and clear blue eyes which

darted to and fro.


"Girl, what are you doing here tonight?"


"Aren't I allowed to be here, or something?"


"Of course not, I was meaning, you know, Antonio.

He's here, too, did you know that? With some new



"He is? Well, hope he has a good time. Hope he has

fun." She glanced at a group of people laughing in

one of the corners of the room. She faked interest.

The boy looked at Luca, almost glaring before throwing

his head back and laughing. "Oh my gosh, are you the

girl he dumped?" Luca looked at him, and nodded.

"And two days later he's going out with some other

girl? That is just too harsh, just crazy."


Luca got up off her seat and walked off.

"Luca, maybe we'll bump into each other later on

tonight." Caroline shouted before poking her

boyfriend in the ribs, for punishment. Luca continued

walking, ignoring her friend's words, passing the pool

and into a small room, eyeing it suspiciously before

finding a place to sit.


Craig lay still in the same position, in a darkened

corner, like a hungry lio watching its prey, and as

the night grew older, his anger ballooned in size, the

sweat on his forehead gathering, then rolling down and

stinging his eyes.


Taking occasional gulps from a bitter beer, he watched

his peers as they danced around the room, laughing and

talking excitedly.


As Craig watched them kiss again, his heart pounded

and his sweat poured.


His face oddly blank throughout all of this; as he

rose from his seat and made his way past the pool

table. It was all happening so fast for Antonio that

his reactions were slowed. Craig glided toward him,

pushing a drunken teen from his path, grabbing Antonio

by the collar of his leather jacket, forcing him to

stand up, before proceeding to push him down to the

ground again with a grunt. Dazed, he blinked his eyes

and looked around the room, and saw Craig standing

above him, teeth bared and eyes crazy.

"You could take the place of ten men in Hell. You

treat this girl the way you treat every woman we all

see you with, like you can get away with anything.

I'm here to tell you you're not getting away with it

all anymore."


Silence except for the music which continued to play.

"Did you hear me? Did you hear what I said? You are

worthless! I called you athletic!"


Antonio's flushed, expressionless face stared back at

him, an empty shape, taking in long gasps of stale

air, the chest steadily rising, then falling.


"What is this?" He asks.


"You're not getting away with it anymore." Craig

repeated, fists clenched, and teeth gritted.

Antonio motions to some of his friends, gathered

around Craig in an ominous circle. Wiping a thin line

of blood which ran from his lips to his chin, as he

spoke to his entourage.


"Take him outta here and beat the shit out of him."

"Forget them. You do it. Punch me. Hit me. Come

on!" Craig felt no ache when Antonio punched him,

rising sharply and hitting him hard in the gut. He

still felt nothing when he landed hard on the ground.

Antonio reached forward and pulled the dangling

camcorder off of Craig's neck. Throwing it onto the

ground and kicking it into a corner of the room.

Craig was numb to any feeling, physical or emotional,

other than his immense indignation. Glancing at his

camera, then looking back at Antonio. He smiled at

the person who had just destroyed one of the few

things he had to live for.


"He's right." A loud voice from behind. "He's right

about everything."


From the crowds of people who had gathered, Luca

appeared and made her way over to the situation, as if

gliding, gently pushing past people to gaze into the

eyes of her past boyfriend. Staring at each other



"This is the night you pay for how you treat people."

Antonio laughed, throwing his head back. "I'm getting

out of here. This is so fucking stupid." He looked

at Zoe, whose eyes darted back and forth, her mind

quickly trying to make sense of the situation.

"You are a poor girl, Zoe. A poor, duped girl."

Spoke Luca.


Zoe held back her tears with strong conviction, not

wanting to lose control of her emotions, which were

insane amidst the glaring eyes and intermediate



"Antonio, what's going on?" Zoe squeezed the words

out through a dry mouth. "Who is this girl?" Her

words initiated silence for the longest time, before

Antonio spoke again.


"Zoe, did you know he was still fucking me while he

was fucking you? Did you know this?"


"Grow up, Luca. Fucking ugly bitch. Go and get a

life." He glanced at Zoe, who stood silent amidst the

insanity. "This is a farce. I'm outta here." And

when he left, she followed, throwing her hand out to

reach his.


The rest of the night he nursed a stinging wound above

his right eyebrow while talking to his companion. He

sat opposite her under dim lights in a quiet suburban



"He killed it." He spoke quietly, and without looking

at her, instead focusing his attention on the large

clumps of camcorder which lay cluttered in his hands

before releasing them, letting them fall to the

ground. "And you know what?" He looked up at her

face, staring attentively at his. "I don't care."


Luca touched his hand and smiled. "It was impressive

tonight what you did." She watched him closely,

finally making eye contact, and it was held. "I

couldn't believe what was happening when I saw it.

Your courage was admirable."


"I'm really not that courageous."


Looking away from each other, and watching a bird

swoop through the cloudless sky. Silence apart from

the noise it made as its wings moved through the air.

"I could be a good friend." He waited for a reaction

from her. She looked at him, face expressionless.

"I'm a nice guy." He continued, breathing in deeply,

looking away from her. "If only people would give me

the chance." Tears blurred his vision. He wiped his

eyes before continuing. "If only people would give me

the chance of showing it." She listened to him with

total attention, her sad eyes fixed on his.


"I noticed that tonight, well "




"You renewed a belief."


He looked at here for the longest time, then spoke

again. "A belief in what?"


"That possibly not all men are the way I see them."


"You know what they say about nice guys."


"What do they say?"


"They finish last." He whispered.


And she looked at him sternly as she whispered;

"Perhaps the race isn't worth winning in the first

place." She answered.


And he copied her when she smiled, clutching her hand

in his. In a lengthy quiet moment they shared a small



The birds darted and sang as the night ended. They

day was only beginning.

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