Novel Excerpt

Marcos and Vincente slipped into the party without anyone noticing. There were at least a hundred people in attendance. Vincente wore a white singlet with the Coke emblem and a red hoodie and shorts with a small embroidered Coke logo stitched to the pocket. He left the hoodie unzipped most of the way, but with the hood up covering most of his hair while his long bangs hung in his eyes. Marcos wore a pair of Levi’s Coke jeans made from recycled pop bottles and a red vintage Coke tee.

“I feel ridiculous in this outfit,” Vincente said.

“No, no, you fit right in. Look, everyone is wearing red and white…it’s the party colours.”

“Let’s get some drinks,” Vincente said.

“Do you think there’s any chance we can get some real drinks?”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Vincente saw the bar up on the deck. He tried to make his way through the growing crowd and finally reached the bar.

“Two Cuba Libres, please,” Vincente told the bartender.

“How about Coke on ice?” the bartender offered instead.

The Cuba Libre was the most popular alcoholic beverage in Mexico, consisting of rum, cola and a wedge of lime. The bartender could easily tell that Vincente was still a minor.

“Sure, that’s fine,” he said, a little embarrassed.

Vincente accepted the drinks, removed the straw and took a sip of his. He tried to look for Marcos, now lost in the crowd. He leaned into the deck railing and did a quick 360 of the crowd. Looking down over the pool, he saw a beautiful young woman standing in profile, her long, dark hair cascading over light coffee-coloured shoulders. His jaw became slack and open. All of the moisture in his mouth suddenly dried up. He felt anxious, with an urge to flee, but he couldn’t move. His legs seemed fused to the deck with cement. He was staring at the girl when she turned and caught his eye. It was Coco.

She’s here, he thought. Thank you, Marcos. Thank you for dragging me. She didn’t look away, but kept his gaze for a moment before returning to her conversation. Was she playing it cool, he wondered?

The Latin band in the gazebo was playing an instrumental version of Marc Antony’s ‘Need to Know’. Vincente ditched the drinks, dropped the hood from his head and walked down the stairs of the deck. He forgot about Marcos as he walked towards Coco. She saw him across the pool.

Music and the cacophony of the crowd were all around him. Coco excused herself from her companion and came around to his side of the pool. They didn’t take their eyes off one another, and surprisingly considering how close to the lip they walked, neither of them fell into the pool. Then he was right in front of her, looking into her golden eyes.

“Vincente, I’m so glad to see you.” She beamed. “I never got your number, and then my dad was giving me a hard time. Hey, what happened to your eye?”

She examined it closely, lightly touching the butterfly strip across his eyebrow. Vincente was terribly embarrassed.

“Ugh, I got into a fight last week, just after we met,” Vincente said.

“Someone from school?”

“Just a guy.”

“Okay, tough guy,” she said. “Hey, how did you find out about the party?”

“Marcos got wind of it. This is my first year at the Coke BBQ. You seem to have been to this thing before?”

“Every year, actually. My father is the one that throws it.”

And now Vincente knew the truth.

“Oh, sorry. That’s really embarrassing,” he said.

Vincente thought that maybe he should have enlightened her, but he didn’t want to ruin the moment. He could tell her later, he thought.

Coco laughed. “No worries. Hey, do you want to dance?

“Sure, but I’m not that good.”

“That’s okay. I can lead.”

Coco took Vincente’s hand and led him down to the temporary dance floor in front of the gazebo. Her father had had it laid out just for this occasion. Above the dance floor, the decorating team had strung numerous strands of twinkly lights between two trees. People were sitting and keeping warm in the at two fire pits surrounded by logs.

Coco found a spot that was clear of the other dancers on the floor. Vincente put one hand on Coco’s slim hips and his other hand on her shoulder. She adjusted his hand, moving it slightly higher onto her waist. He felt like an idiot for being so awkward. She pulled him in a little bit closer, beginning to sway to the music.

“You see, it’s not that difficult,” she said.

Coco’s skin was so soft to the touch and she smelled amazing, like the sweet fragrance of wild roses. Being near her was potent.

“You’re right. I just need to get the hang of it, I guess.”

The beautiful sky and moon that now rose, the cool night air, and the beauty of Coco enveloped Vincente. The chill created goose pimples on Coco’s flesh.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

“No, you seem to be warm enough for the two of us,” she said.

“You smell great,” he said, immediately regretting it. But then she said, “So do you.”

He held her close, this almost stranger. He now felt guilty for not revealing his true self to her. When the song ended, Coco suggested they sit by the fire and warm up. Like a gentleman, he offered his hoodie, and she accepted.

Cody appeared in front of Coco. “Hi, I thought I lost you.”

“I’ve just been talking with the guests.”

Is that what I am, just a guest? Vincente wondered.

Cody was now eyeing Vincente and seemed a little perturbed at his presence.

“Cody, this is Vincente. Vincente, Cody’s father is one of my father’s colleagues.”

Vincente offered his hand to shake, but Cody just ignored him.

“Hey,” was all he said.

Turning back to Coco, he said, “I’d really love to dance with you.”

“Oh, sure,” she said with some misgivings. “Vincente, I’ll see you later?”

She handed Vincente the Coke hoodie.

“Sure, I should find Marcos.”

What else could he say when she was brushing him off?

Cody took Coco’s hand and led her to the dance floor, but she didn’t take her eyes off Vincente the whole time.

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