Thank you for checking out my work. This is a 15 chapter tale that is finished offline and is in the process of being formatted, so updates will be regular. Also available on Wattpad.
This story is very much inspired by music. Chapters are titled after song lyrics to which I owe my inspiration, and all referenced music will be specified. If you like modern music with an eighties sound, I encourage you to go take a listen and give these songs and artists some love.
Chapter 1: Where Are They All Going?
It was the third Monday in the life of Landon Heights' sprawling and extravagant Lone Pine Mall, but for forty-nine-year-old Darren Keegan, it may as well have been opening day. That's what every day had felt like to him since that sunny June Saturday where he'd made a grand show for the spectating masses of cutting the ribbon secured across its entryway with a pair of extraordinarily oversized scissors. He would never forget the looks on their faces when those doors had swung wide to welcome them into its glittering interior. Every day the mall opened up since was like reliving that great moment. Maybe the best moment, all things considered. If not the best he'd ever known, then certainly the best of the past thirty years or so. Maybe his patrons felt that way too, he thought as he looked down on them through the glass from his vantage point. All he could see amongst them were laughing faces.
The mogul in question turned his head to see his security guard standing at the opened door of the booth. "Hey, Jackson."
"Ms. Dawson's here to see you."
"Oh. Okay, thanks. Send her on in."
Jackson nodded and stepped back out.
The smile had never really left his face in all these weeks, but when he saw his sharply dressed accountant enter the room it quickly widened. "Katie!" he chirped.
"Darren," she replied. Her face didn't echo his smile, straight as always with that ever-so-slightly put-upon crease in her brow that seemed to be permanently worn in from overuse. Her eyes were scanning the dark booth around them, grazing the control panel he was standing behind before landing lastly on the large glass panes directly in front of them. "Where are we right now? What is this?"
"Oh," Darren looked around. "This is the control booth for the roller-skating rink. See?" He turned back to motion down at the expansive rink the booth looked out on, watching people whiz by below. "We can do music, sound, lights, all sorts of stuff. Come look."
"Thanks, I'm not too keen on heights," Katie dismissed.
Darren stared down at them for a moment longer before turning back to her in excitement. "So what do you think of the place, huh?"
Katie opened her mouth and looked away with a shrug. "I...think it's ostentatious."
"Well that was the idea," he decided.
"Then I guess in that regard, it's a huge success."
"It's a success alright," he agreed, folding his arms and leaning back against the control panel with a grin. "Have you looked around much yet? I'd be happy to give you the grand tour if you've got the time."
"No, I'm good," Katie said somewhat flatly.
"Ah, come on. I really think you'll be impressed," he attempted. Something bumped against his leg and he followed her gaze to the ground.
"Are you aware that there's a cat in here?" Katie asked.
"Sure, he lives here."
"In the mall?"
"Yeah. Well, in my penthouse, anyway." Darren bent down to scratch the gray cat's back, gesturing to the door on the other side of the booth.
"Penthouse?" Katie repeated, an eyebrow raised. "Does that mean what I think it means?"
"If you think it means a place with a view, then you bet. I can see practically all of Landon Heights from there. Wanna check it out? It's pretty cool."
"You're living here?" she clarified.
"Well, sure. This place is my baby," he said as he straightened up. "And before you judge, don't underestimate the convenience of living in a mall. Whether I need a smoothie, a new pair of shoes, a pack of batteries or a phone charger on the fly, I can have it in about five minutes without ever even needing to step outside."
"Most recluses just stick to online shopping," she noted dryly. "Which costs a hell of a lot less than whatever fantasy land this is."
"I'm not a recluse," he denied, swiping a hand at the air. "If I was, I'd've built a museum, not a mall."
"Sure. But I think we both know why I'm here."
"You haven't had a slurpee since 1989?"
"Darren," she admonished. "Let's cut to the chase here. I know that it's my literal job to keep up on the numbers for you, but have you even glanced at them? Did you go through any of those spreadsheets I sent you? One single report? Because I don't recall ever having gotten a response."
"Sure, I looked at them. They were very informative."
"Do you think you might do anything with that information?"
"I don't know. Maybe like cutting back on a few expenditures? Putting a hold on some more exorbitant purchases? Dialing back the frivolous weirdness just a hair? Because if the life-sized pirate ship I couldn't help but notice is any sort of preview into future spending habits, you might have a real problem."
"That pirate ship is the Inferno, for your information. And let's just say that considering how much hidden treasure it's got, it was a steal." When she lidded her eyes he shrugged. "It's a kiddy playground. Just a replica, you know? It's not like I had a real 1632 shipwreck flown in from the coast of Astoria."
"Letting me know how much more ridiculous you've thought about getting isn't saving you face here. And anyway, it's not just about the ship."
"Okay, well then why don't you come out and say what you mean, then? Because I gotta tell you Katie: this is a long chase."
"This place is hemorrhaging money, Darren. I came here because I wanted to make absolute certain that you knew it. It's called covering my ass."
Darren snorted, turning back to the glass to gaze out over the crowds again. "Ah, sheesh, it's only been three weeks. Tell me one business that was a success three weeks in."
"Tell me one business that lost 3.2 million dollars three weeks in," she countered, gesturing around her. "Because I know of at least one."
"Word is spreading," Darren assured. "It's getting more crowded by the day. I mean look at them down there, we've barely opened up and there's at least—oh my god."
"What?" Katie asked.
"Hey, Jackson!" he called.
Said security guard quickly reappeared at the door. "Yeah boss?"
"Come look at this!" Darren demanded, hands pressed against the glass as he peered down. "Are you seeing this? That kid down there dressed as the Terminator? She can't be more than three. That is literally the cutest thing I've ever seen!"
Jackson stared out with his serious, bearded face and shrugged. "Uh, yeah. Definitely."
"Darren," Katie said, calling his attention back. "I'm trying to level with you here. I get that this is your pet project, but it's undeniably the worst business venture you've ever undertaken. I've known you for what, three years now? I've never known you to make a stupid decision until this one. Hell, I'm a little worried about you."
"Well, you don't need to be."
"As long as I work for you, I do."
"Katie," Darren sighed, fully turning back around. "I get it. The mall's a sink. So tell me about my other investments."
She paused, wetting her lips. "Which ones?"
"Any of them. How's my stock in Walter Terrace Inc?"
"Mm hm. And Ballistair?"
"Taken a small uptick, sure. But—"
"How about Littleway Productions?"
"...Still in the black."
Darren held up his hands. "So it sounds like I'm still a profitable man."
"Barely," Katie argued. "Ten months ago you were still a billionaire. Thanks to this nostalgia nightmare castle, you can't claim that anymore."
Darren effected a dramatic gasp. "You mean I've been demoted to multi-millionaire? Jeez Louise, what'll my parents say?"
"If you could just try to be serious about the future of your finances, it might make me at least feel like I'm doing my job. This might have been a good move...a better move, at least, if you'd opened up in Los Angeles or San Fransisco, but Landon Heights? The population isn't big enough in a mid-sized town for something so niche."
Darren shrugged. "Sure, but I grew up here. And believe me, in my teen years, me and my friends caused enough trouble in this poor town that I owe it something in return. Seriously, we were nuts. I mean, me and Dave and Alex and...Rich." He paused, then shook his head. "This is where the eighties happened to me. It couldn't be anywhere else. I mean come on; don't you feel just a little bit of joy seeing all this old stuff again? The arcades? The roller skating? The flicks and the tunes and the clothes?"
"I was four when the eighties ended. At best I remember fighting with my sister over My Little Pony dolls. I get that the eighties are back in right now, but that's just right now. What happens in a few years when folks decide they're more into silly bands and frosted tips again and leave moon shoes and mullets back in the past where they belong?"
"Alright, Katie, look," Darren said. "I really do appreciate your concern here. You're a great accountant—always have been. You're great because you give me numbers only, no bullshit attached. Thanks in large part to you, I'm one of the richest men that most people will ever meet. But I didn't build the Lone Pine because I thought it would make me even richer than I already am."
Darren continued. "I built if for me. I just wanted this one thing. I think after everything I've done for my company and for software and for the future of online security, I can have just this one thing for myself. Even if it is a little crazy."
Katie shook her head in defeat and stepped back. "I still think it's a bad idea. And I better not have to take a pay cut."
Darren chuckled as he turned back to the glass. "Naw. Hey Jackson."
"Go track down that Terminator kid and give her family a couple of vouchers to the Build-A-Care Bear workshop."
"Sure thing," Jackson agreed.
"Build-A-Care Bear?" Katie repeated in exasperation.
Darren smirked at her. "Well, it's not just Care Bears. You can also make Gremlins, Alfs, and even My Little Ponies. I can give you a voucher too, if you think it'll help you make up with your sister."
Katie stared dully at him. "I guess we're done here."
Darren watched her turn, a slight frown touching his features. "You really don't wanna see the mall?"
"I've seen plenty."
"Take care, Darren. And just try and keep the spending to a reasonable minimum. Please."
"Sure thing, Katie. I'll see ya."
Once she was gone, Darren glanced over his shoulder at the rink, then to his right as the cat leapt up onto the desk next to his arm. "What do you think, Bueller? Should I have told her about the contest?"
The cat began to purr once he locked eyes with it.
Darren pet the animal's head with a smile. "Yeah. Probably best I didn't, huh?"
It was the part that was killing him. He couldn't tell how the hair was parted—it was always artfully windswept or mussed or something and he couldn't figure out how to style it just right, but damnit, he was going to. As much as the thrift stores had come in clutch with the white sneakers and burnt orange vest, a modern hairstyle would be a dead giveaway that seventeen-year-old Lucky Parrish was born nowhere near the 1980s. He rocked back and forth, bouncing slightly on his heels to the tune of "The Power of Love" as he tediously ran a fine-tooth comb through his hair and studied Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly in the television screen reflected in the mirror above his dresser.
"Don't need money..." he sang in a high-pitched murmur, meticulously twisting a strand of his dark brown hair between his fingers. "Don't take fame...don't need a credit card to ride this train..."
He quickly looked over at his phone when it lit up and snatched it to see Ramona's text.
Where are you dickbreath?
Lucky grinned and hammered out a text with his thumb.
On my way babe
He added six kissing emojis followed by one vomiting face and set the phone back down, tossing his comb aside as well to finish perfecting his quaff with his hands. He scooped up his sunglasses from the dresser's surface and slid them on, pointing at the mirror with both hands. "We got this, Marty," he said. With that he reached for his keys, but paused, pulled his hand back, and grabbed his skateboard instead before flying down the stairs.
Lucky stumbled to a halt at the bottom and vaulted over the rail on the last few steps to meet his mother as she came out of the kitchen. "Yes, Mommy Dearest?"
She balked at him for a moment. "What is this?"
Lucky popped his collar. "Ah, it's for the big eighties mall, you know? That's where I'm meeting Ramona. She's been saying it's seriously awesome."
She rolled her eyes slightly. "Right, right. I can't believe that eyesore actually made it to opening."
"You don't think it's kinda fun? I mean it's backed by a billionaire, so there's gotta be something to it."
"I think anyone obsessed enough with a dead decade to build a metropolitan shrine has a screw loose. And as someone who lived through the eighties, let me assure you that they weren't all that great. Hair was awful, clothes were ridiculous, and everywhere you turned, Wham!"
"...Wham, what—you were hit by a truck?"
"No, Wham—the band. They were huge in my friend group."
Lucky fussed with his hair a little more. "Okay, but how do I look? Ready to hop in a DeLorean and re-convince you and Dad to hook up or what?"
She huffed. "Don't do me any favors."
He held out his arms. "It's a sacrifice you have to make for a son as great as me."
"Been there, done that... Hey, well I'm not gonna be here tonight. I have to put in a few extra hours, so take some cash," she held out a twenty, "and when you get back from the future, bring yourself home some dinner."
Lucky looked down, pinching the bill away from her hand between two fingers. "Thanks. When'll you be back?"
"Why? Planning on having Ramona over?" She quirked a brow at him.
Lucky's jaw dropped and he pulled away. "Did you seriously just accuse your only son of being some kind of dirty fornicator?"
"Okay, but I'm serious, Lucky. Just be safe if you're doing something. That's all I'm asking."
"Heavy," Lucky muttered. "Sure Mom. I promise to try not to get knocked up."
She lightly swatted him, but he was already scrambling for the door and hitting the ground skateboard-first. "Be home by eight!" she snapped after him.
Lucky grinned and held up a hand to her as he coasted off down his sidewalk towards city center.
He was happy to find himself still pretty nimble on a skateboard for not having ridden one in almost two years. It used to be the only mode of transportation available to him and he'd gotten pretty good at trick moves. Enough that he was sorely tempted to snag the bumper of a car and surf his way down the hill to the new mall, but he figured people probably weren't as cool with that in real life as they were in the movies. He was definitely catching a lot of looks dressed like this, though, and he couldn't say he didn't revel in the attention. He smiled at passersby with his best parade wave, constantly checking his watch and looking panicked. Some offered him only confused faces while others laughed at his antics. It felt good to be back.
Not everything was as he'd left it though. No, when he'd packed up his things and flown out to Iowa a month ago, the Lone Pine Mall was still nothing but a mysterious construction project. Lucky remembered talking to Ramona about it shortly before he left and wondering what the hell they thought Landon Heights needed a second mall for. Little did they know at the time that it was, as his mother had put it, a veritable shrine to the era of cocaine and hairspray. And what a shrine it was. Lucky had to lift up his sunglasses to gawp at what he was seeing minutes later as he came upon the city center that he so well remembered. He still wasn't anywhere near it, but the mall was all he could see. It was huge. Bigger than the local college campus and taller than most of the other buildings in the area. He didn't remember the construction site taking up so much space, but the whole of downtown practically seemed to be this thing now. Ramona wasn't kidding when she'd called him three weeks ago while he laid bored on a hotel bed to regale him about the Lone Pine's outrageous grand opening. He had to admit he thought she'd just been exaggerating in an attempt to entertain him, but this was beyond the level of crazy that she'd described. More excited than ever, Lucky picked up his pace to sail down the hill.
He felt like a tourist in his own home as he drew closer, eyes stuck up on the mirrored angles and neon lights. He was so busy marveling at it all that he didn't even notice the car until it lurched to a halt to avoid hitting him just at the bottom of the imposingly long mall steps. Lucky stumbled off his skateboard, backpedaling frantically before stopping to stare in shock at the vehicle. A boy about his age was leaning out the window, face screwed up in annoyance, blonde hair cropped short with a plaid shirt.
"Uh, hello. McFly!" he heckled.
Lucky grinned, straightening up.
The boy got out of the car, followed up by two others. One was tall and lanky, dressed up like Doc Brown, while the other was shorter and dressed very similarly to Lucky himself. "Parrish," the blond boy said, thrusting a finger at him with a grin.
"Hey Decker," he greeted cheerily, clasping the other boy's hand as he was approached. "How the hell are you?"
"Good man, good—where the fuck you been?"
"Summer home in the Hamptons."
"Fuck off. You back for good now or what?"
"Yeah, you're stuck with me."
Makeshift Biff lightly shoved him, gesturing to the other boys. "Well shit, you should've texted us, we could've fit you into the entourage. You been inside yet?"
Lucky shook his head. "No, I gotta find Ramona first. She's supposed to be waiting out here for me."
"You didn't come with her?"
"Nah, this'll be the first time I've seen her since I left."
Decker whistled. "So how blue are they?"
Decker and his friends laughed, Lucky chuckling along with them while still scanning the area. That's when he spotted her. Ramona Cox, pretty and confident as ever, tall and thin with long dark hair and dressed to the nines in the gaudiest imaginable ensemble. There were checker patterns, pink leopard prints, scrunchies, bracelets, over-sized hoop earrings, green eye shadow—she was a perfect mess. Lucky's face split into an elated grin and he slapped Decker's shoulder. "Hey, uh, I'll catch you guys inside."
Decker slugged him back lightly, looking over his shoulder at the girl in question. "Yeah man, get some."
Lucky slipped around Decker and bounded up the steps as fast as he could. "Ray!" he shouted.
Ramona saw him just as he began to ascend and she screamed at him, throwing up her arms before he tackled her around the middle, spinning her around in a crushing embrace and lifting her off the ground.
"Lucky!" she shrieked with laughter, surely busting her tacky manicure where she fisted his vest in her hands. She leaned in and kissed his forehead hard.
"Did you miss me, did you miss me, huh, huh, huh?" He asked.
She threw her arms around his neck and squeezed. "Oh my god, I'm so glad you're finally back!" She clutched him for a moment longer before pulling away a little, gripping at his arms with a furrowed brow. "Holy shit, you're jacked. What the fuck?"
Lucky grunted. "There is nothing else to do in Iowa. I mean nothing. Literally all I did was lift and watch probably every shred of eighties entertainment in existence. Not bad, right?"
"You're like granite," she said with fascination, jabbing her finger repeatedly into his pectoral. "I'm actually really jealous."
Lucky looked up, taking in the imposing height of the building. "Don't be. I'm the one who missed the opening."
Ramona stepped back, dabbing at the corner of her mouth to check for smeared lipstick. "Eh, you just missed the chaos, honestly. But this place is fucking bonkers, Luck. I have so much shit to show you. Come on, I'll buy you lunch."
Lucky obeyed, letting her take his hand to guide him as he continued staring up into all the flashing lights. He could hear music blaring from the speakers inside, and when they came through the rotating glass doors it assaulted his ears like a foghorn amidst a thousand visual catastrophes. The interior lobby of the mall was almost too much to take in at once. There were endless shops, levels upon levels upwards and onwards, screens overhead flashing images and old commercials, sparkling floors and walls, people dressed up as characters and stereotypes everywhere he looked, and in the middle of it all was what looked to be an enormous roller-skating rink. If Ramona hadn't been pulling him along, he probably wouldn't have been able to move at all, frozen in awe. Landon Heights had never seen anything like this before.
"Wild, right?" Ramona asked.
Lucky was only vaguely aware that his mouth was hanging open. "You weren't kidding."
"You ain't seen nothin' yet," she said, tugging him towards an escalator. "I'd tell you my plan, but I don't wanna spoil anything."
Lucky was still scanning all around him, lifting up his sunglasses and resting them on the top of his head. "I can't wait. I feel like I died and went to John Hughes's heaven."
"Or hell, depending."
He turned back to her, leaning against the escalator guardrail. "So what's new, Ray?"
She shrugged at him. "Same shit different month. Well, almost the same. I mean this place has definitely been interesting."
"Your parents been leaving you alone?"
Ramona rolled her eyes and gave a forced smile. "Sure. They've been treating me like a lovesick puppy ever since you left. And I might've hammed it up a little, but...you know, I was genuinely sad. So they're off my case for now."
"Small miracles." Lucky's eyes trained on a few of the skaters below before he looked back up. "What do they think of the mall?"
"Well they definitely don't know I go here, if that's what you mean. As soon as they heard about it, my mom ranted for half an hour straight about Billy Idol being a Satanist and George Michael and David Bowie brainwashing all the poor little eighties babies with their queer propaganda. And then of course dear old dad starts in on Madonna with his 'slutty women are the true evil of this world' spiel."
"You know, I'm really disappointed that you've never invited me over for dinner with the folks."
Ramona laughed. "Maybe if you really piss me off one day I will."
The food court was something else. Lucky wasn't sure he could pinpoint all the references in every restaurant, but he was plenty glad to settle on Splinter's pizza joint and get himself a New York slice. He and Ramona spent lunch tapping along to the beat of whatever eighties classic happened to come on and making up their own lyrics as they ate, likely to the irritation of the people around them. They finished quick and she forcibly ushered him around to the endless supply of novelty stores, from the comic shop to the arcade to a totally pointless Radio Shack and everything in-between. Not that they had much money to spend, but it was still a blast, and they did manage to scrape together enough for a run at a photobooth. Lucky was just going over the photo strip in his hand, a soft pretzel in the other as they made their way back down to the mall's first floor.
"Your hair is perfect in this one, look," he said, holding it over for her to see half of her bangs sticking up like mad in the third photo down. "What's in it—spackle?"
Ramona laughed, plucking the picture from his hand. "It's some kind of pomade. I got it here, actually, just over there at the Curl Up And Dye salon."
Lucky looked over where she gestured to see a totally whacky-looking salon a few stores up, a sign printed in the standee that read 'Out of this world!' in big bold letters. "I don't think I even know what that's a reference to."
"Me neither, but I hear their 'Brand New Girl' line works wonders on split-ends."
"So where to next, cap'n?"
"This place is so huge I don't even know if we can do everything in one day. I mean there's laser tag, the movie theater, a full-fledged bar. Not that we can go there...but I mean shit, there's even an entire, set-accurate Shermer High Library."
"This place has a library?"
"Well, it's a book store. Wanna go see it?"
Lucky hummed and took another bite. "I kinda wanna go see what this skating rink is all about."
Ramona plunged the now empty soda cup she was toting into a nearby trash can. "Sure, we can do that. You still remember how to skate?"
"Do I still remember how to skate, she asks," he repeated with a scoff.
"I'm just saying, how long has it been since you skated? Or even really danced?"
Lucky blinked at her. "What is that supposed to mean? I never stopped dancing."
"Please, I barely see you bust out those moves for real anymore."
Lucky smirked, giving a head toss in the rink's direction. "Well then strap the fuck in, little lady, 'cause you're about to be reminded why I've been on the VIP list of every school dance since 2015."
He could hear the music playing loudly before they arrived on the scene, but when they did, he found that the outside of the rink was jam-packed with bodies as opposed to any of them being out on the floor. Instead, the rink was cleared apart from two girls, who appeared to be doing some kind of routine with one another. Everyone else seemed to just be spectating. Lucky and Ramona sidled in as best they could and managed to get up to the wall of the rink to watch them.
"What's going on?" Lucky asked, taking another large bite of his food as he watched the girls fly past one another. The screen above them was showcasing the song and artist but he didn't quite catch it before someone moved in front of him.
Ramona was glancing at her phone before slipping it into a pocket. "Right, I forgot. People can sign up for performances between noon and one."
Lucky glanced at her and then back to the dance at hand. "Hey, that's pretty cool. Look at 'em go! They're good."
"This should be over soon. You wanna go somewhere else in the meantime?"
"Nah, I wanna watch," Lucky dismissed, eyes locked on their forms. Sure enough, the routine was wrapping up. The two girls slid to a halt and the people around them cheered. Lucky perked up when a voice came over the speakers above him.
"Wow, well put your hands together for Jessie and Tawnie everybody!"
"Who's that?" Lucky asked Ramona as he clapped.
Ramona pointed upwards towards a booth above them with one-way mirrors lining the outside. "That's Keegan."
"Keegan," Lucky repeated. "Wait, like Darren Keegan? He's actually here?"
"Sure. He built this place. Didn't you know that?"
"Yeah I knew it, but I didn't think he'd be here."
"He's here all the time," Ramona informed. "Watching these dances must be his favorite thing, because it seems like he's always the one doing the announcing himself. I think if I was as rich as that guy I could find better things to do, personally."
"Okay folks," Keegan continued enthusiastically. "I'm sure plenty of you have been waiting on this one, so last but most definitely not least, please welcome crowd favorite and teen heartthrob extraordinaire Blue Whittaker onto the rink!"
Lucky jumped a little as the crowd whooped and hollered around him with renewed vigor. Then another skater emerged from the rink's entry and headed out into it. He was probably around their age, shorter than Lucky and built with the sort of lean muscle that suggested dancing must've been a regular thing for him. He had that brooding bad boy aura down pat with his pierced ear and fingerless gloves, his hair loose, light brown curls cut fashionably into a shaggy style that was at least a little reminiscent of the appropriate decade. Dark eyebrows and black eyeliner gave his features a mean edge and he was dressed in acid wash jeans, a blue tank top, and a dark denim jacket. Lucky watched curiously as he took center stage. "Who's he?"
"No clue," Ramona replied.
Lucky looked back to the boy and then up to the screen he could now see again. A song began to play and he saw the label change up above. "Can't Stop Now" by Allie X. He could tell that it wasn't a song from the eighties when it started up, but it certainly had the vibe of one. He watched as the performer slowly raised his head to the crowd to reveal steely blue eyes, then began to slowly skate circles.
He was definitely graceful, Lucky decided, watching him bend and pivot nicely in rhythm with the song. Maybe he had some kind of formal training. But when the bridge gave way into the first chorus and the boy geared up, skirted up the wall, and executed a full-on backflip, Lucky felt his jaw hit the floor. The crowd burst into cheers as he landed back into an insanely progressive series of acrobatic spins and flips. His movements were dramatic and immaculate, axeling like a figure skater and flipping like a gymnast all in one. On the second chorus he slid back up a wall, one hand on the edge at the top, and the momentum had him balancing in a one-armed handstand for a breathless few seconds before he was curving back down to his feet. He moved like he'd done these things countless times, face subdued and eyes focused, and Lucky couldn't look away, totally enraptured for the duration of the dance. As the music slowed, so did the energy of the boy's moves, until he was easing back to skating in backwards circles to the wind-down of the track. When it was over, he had stopped, head down, and the crowd erupted into more cheers.
"Whoah," Ramona said beside him. "I have to admit, I haven't watched a lot of these performances, but that was cool as fuck."
Cool wasn't the half of it. That guy was amazing. Lucky looked down, unsure of when he'd dropped the remnants of his pretzel onto his foot, but he couldn't even be bothered to care about his now mustard-stained shoe at present. He grabbed Ramona's shoulder with a grin. "Let's get the hell out there!"
Minutes later, when the crowd was allowed to file back in, Lucky and Ramona rented some mismatched skates and were hitting the expansive rink with gusto. Lucky looked up when a dance groove started to catch the title—"Burning Man" by Patterns—and began an exaggerated dance number at Ramona. He skated in front of her, moving backwards with her as she skated forwards and giving her a ridiculous series of hip thrusts, shimmying side to side, moonwalking, and an emphatic running man that had her laughing like crazy.
"What the hell are you doing?" she shouted over the music, enacting her own, less bombastic dance.
"I'm reminding you who's king of the dance," he replied, yanking up one leg and strumming it like an electric guitar as they moved. "Check me out. We got Billie Jean legs," he paused, gripping his belt as he gave her an example. "Criss-cross toprock. Throw in a little Chris Tucker. And spin." Lucky spun around, continuing to stay ahead of her with a dancing backwards step.
"Woo!" she praised. "Damn, Lucky, you are good. I can't believe you're doing all that shit on skates."
Lucky held his arms out wide. "I did say king, didn't I?"
"Come on, your majesty, let's see what else you got."
Lucky obliged, pulling out all his old tricks and then some, high on the thrill of a good time, a good song, and honestly, a pretty good pretzel. It also just felt like it had been a long time since he could cut loose and dance like this, and the skating rink was maybe already his favorite part of the whole Lone Pine shebang. "This place is awesome," Lucky acknowledged as he did a rather daring split that even he wasn't sure he was going to pull off for a second. A little girl they passed by cheered at him and theatrically bowed at her.
"Such fancy footwork!" said Ramona, watching him continue on with a lively shuffle. "I'm gonna guess you watched a lot of dance TikToks in Iowa."
Lucky shrugged. "Anything to expand my arsenal."
Ramona gestured to the mall around them. "So what do you think? Does this place live up to your standards, your highness?"
"It's got food. It's got games. It's got dancing," Lucky put on his best Carlton dance by way of example. "And your parents hate it. What's not to love?"
Lucky was about to tell her more sincerely how he felt about this place and how he'd be just fine if they spent the rest of their Summer here when someone lightly bumped into his shoulder as they skated past him and broke him out of his increasingly silly dance. He turned his head to see the person who'd hit him drifting into view. It was the dancer boy from earlier. Blue Whittaker. Lucky straightened up, blinking at him curiously and feeling oddly intimidated. "Uh, sorry," Lucky offered.
Blue looked him up and down, arms folding across his chest. "Aren't you a little tall for Marty McFly?"
Lucky snorted, glancing at Ramona. "Yeah, well no offense to the Fox, but aren't most of us?"
Blue's expression didn't falter, staring intently at Lucky with a simmering gaze. He was still drifting on his skates in an orbiting motion around them, like he was really sizing them up. "You dance good."
It was a nice thing to say, but for some reason it didn't sound like a compliment. More like an accusation. Lucky kept turning to try and keep eyes on him, lips parting. "Oh. Uh, well, likewise. Seriously, you were really incredible."
"Yeah, those moves were crazy," Ramona chimed in.
Blue's eyes flicked her way, but then stuck right back to Lucky. "Not a lot of people can do what I've been watching you do without skates, never mind with 'em. Where'd you learn to dance?"
Lucky was a little flustered. "Nowhere."
"Then where'd you learn to skate?"
"So were you just born with them on your feet or what?"
Lucky furrowed his brow. "What?"
"I didn't realize it was a confusing question. I can ask it slower if it'll help."
Lucky narrowed an eye and shook his head. "What gives? Did I do something to piss you off? You know you ran into me, right?"
"Obviously," Blue replied, sliding to a halt to cease his strange, shark-like circling.
"So what do you want, then?"
"I saw you dancing from the sidelines," Blue said, flicking his hair from his eyes. "So I came over."
"And what, you wanna dance with me?" he ribbed.
"Since you mentioned it, yeah."
Lucky stared back at Blue for a long moment, waiting for a punchline. When none were forthcoming, he cleared his throat, turning away. "Um. I'm...sort of dancing with my girlfriend here, so..."
Blue moved back into his line of vision. "I'm not looking to cut in, hotshot."
Lucky looked over to see that Blue was pointing up. Lucky craned his head back to try and see what was he was indicating and a few seconds later realized it was a large banner hanging from the balcony of the level directly above the rink.
The Landon Heights Lone Pine Skate-Off – Dance your heart out! Tryouts Saturday, June 13th , sign up no later than Friday, June 12th.
"I'm talking about the contest," Blue finished.
Lucky dragged his eyes back down to Blue. "You're...asking me to join a dance competition?"
Blue stared back at him unwaveringly.
Lucky looked between him and Ramona's very puzzled face before laughing lightly. "Thanks for the offer, buuuut, no thanks."
"Why not?" Blue asked.
This whole conversation was too out of the...well...blue for him. He shook his head. "Why don't I wanna join a competition that I just learned about with a guy I just met using a skill I don't have?"
"You have the skill," Blue said, pointing down at Lucky's feet. "I just saw you out here."
"And I can make scrambled eggs when I feel like it—doesn't mean I'm gonna join a cook-off," Lucky retorted. "Anyway, I saw you out here, too. You're way more impressive than me. What do you even need a partner for?"
Blue shrugged. "There's only so much you can do solo and Keegan's pretty much seen me do it all already. I don't want the applause. I want the win."
"Okay, I'm...sorry, but I'm just not your guy."
"Are you too scared or something?" Blue goaded.
"Terrified," Lucky corrected.
"Hey come on, dude," Ramona interjected. "He said he's not interested."
Blue looked her up and down and then back to Lucky. "I'm not just blowing smoke up your ass. You're obviously better than you think you are."
"Look man, I don't know if I'm better than I think I am, but I know I'm not as good as you seem to think I am."
Blue stared at him hard and Lucky met his gaze defiantly in an effort to get him to take the hint. After a few moments, Blue eased back, pushing out a rough breath. "Alright. Prove it."
Before he could react, Blue's hand had whipped out and artfully snatched the sunglasses that were resting on top of Lucky's head. He held them up once he'd gotten them. "We'll see how good you are here and now. If you want these back, anyway."
"Ah—hey!" Lucky snapped, but Blue had already sprung back away from them into the crowd.
"Hey!" Ramona echoed. "Seriously? What the fuck is that guy's problem?"
Lucky clenched his jaw. "It's about to be a busted face." With that he dove after him into the crowd, barely registering Ramona's plea to be careful as he took up the chase.
Blue was fast. He wove in and out of the surrounding skaters like it was purely by accident, and he was doing it backwards, too. He kept his eyes on Lucky with a taunting gaze. Lucky dodged around kids and couples, trying his damnedest to keep up, but it felt a little like he was just being toyed with. Blue waved his fingers at him and slid Lucky's sunglasses onto his own face. Aggravation spurred Lucky into picking up his pace to a charge and Blue was quickly forced to turn and get some speed himself. Lucky swung to the side to try and hug the curve and cut the denim-clad thief off, very narrowly running into a mother and daughter and having to twist and vault off the rink wall to get around them. "Sorry!" he clipped as he sailed over their shocked faces. He almost lost his footing trying to correct on the landing. This wasn't quite as easy as it was on a skateboard. Blue remained ever ahead, but he was running out of rink. Eventually he'd have to circle back.
Lucky pinpointed where Blue was about to make the turn and went for him, only to be so frazzled when Blue evaded his grasp that he slipped and knocked himself flat on his ass in the middle of the rink. Lucky shook himself, looking up to see Blue beating his retreat back the other way with a beckoning hand gesture. That cocky shit. He clumsily hauled himself back to his feet and seethed. He looked around for a moment and formulated a quick plan. A few feet ahead was an exit to the rink and he jumped on it, escaping into the throng of bodies milling about outside of it and skating along them towards the entrance at the other end. He kept his eyes on Blue, trying to calculate the timing just right. Blue hadn't noticed what he'd done. The boy in question slowed, turning, pulling off the sunglasses and clearly searching the faces on the rink for Lucky's in confusion. Lucky felt a pulse of satisfaction and seized his moment, diving back into the rink around startled spectators to make a b-line for his assailant. Blue only had a split second to pull a shocked face before Lucky had him with his back up against the wall of the rink, gripping him by fistfuls of his jacket.
Blue was stiff in his grasp, not breaking eye contact, but his face didn't look nearly as frightened as it did triumphant. Lucky wanted to smack that smug look off of it. "Told you you were good," Blue said, not the slightest bit out of breath.
Lucky gave him a good glower.
Blue licked his lips, bowing his head but maintaining eye contact. "You know I'm right."
Lucky snapped his sunglasses out of the other boy's hand before pushing off of him. "Forget it, man."
Blue only pursued him with his eyes this time around, which Lucky could feel burning into the back of his skull all the way back to Ramona.
Song inspiration: "Uptight Downtown" by La Roux
This chapter also features the songs "Can't Stop Now" by Allie X, and "Burning Man" by Patterns.