Invincible Summer - Alice Adams Page 0,1

the article had also said that slapping the male genitals as if lightly volleying a tennis ball was a good idea and that hadn’t gone down particularly well either. At least by that time she’d made it into the relative safety of the sixth form, but while her life had become bearable it was hardly the stuff that dreams were made of. The day before she finally left for university Eva had taken the polyester uniform she’d worn for four long years of Saturdays out onto the patio and set fire to it, making a vow into the smoke that she was never going back.

‘What about you, Lucien?’ Benedict nudged Sylvie’s brother’s leg with his own, his voice breaking through Eva’s reverie. ‘What’s your question?’

‘Christ, I don’t know. A list of everyone who’s ever got their jollies thinking about me?’

Eva closed her eyes to avoid involuntarily glancing at him and hoped her cheeks weren’t visibly reddening. Nobody knows, she told herself. They can’t read your mind to see the Atlas of Lucien mapped out there, from the messy dark hair to the freckle on the inside of his surprisingly delicate wrist.

Sylvie let out a long, low moan of disgust and Benedict laughed. ‘I don’t think I’d like that,’ he mused. ‘It would take all the mystique out of things.’

‘The virginity is strong with this one,’ taunted Lucien in his best Yoda voice.

‘Hardly,’ muttered Benedict. ‘Anyway, there’d probably be some hideous people on there. Your sports master from school or someone like that.’

‘Okay, women only. Under the age of thirty.’ Lucien leant over to retrieve the almost-empty wine bottle from Eva’s boot, carelessly dislodging her head from his shoulder as he did so.

Eva sat up, trying to look as if the brush-off didn’t bother her. Typical of Lucien, she thought, to pull her down onto his shoulder like that and then push her away. They’d been doing this dance for most of the year since she’d arrived in Bristol and her new friend Sylvie had introduced her to her hard-living older brother. Lucien wasn’t a student; he described himself as an entrepreneur, though Eva was hazy on the detail of what that actually involved. Sylvie had chosen to study at Bristol only because Lucien was already living there, presumably doing whatever it was that he did in the little time that he didn’t spend loitering around halls with the rest of them.

‘Right,’ said Sylvie, levering herself up from the ground and brushing the grass off her jeans. ‘I can’t listen to any more of this. I’m off to the library to pull an all-nighter, my last essay’s due in tomorrow.’

Sylvie was known for her aversion to writing the essays that she always seemed slightly appalled were required by her Art History course, and claimed to find it impossible to work without a deadline less than forty-eight hours away. The degree was merely intended to buy her some time on her trajectory to being a revered artist, which, it was generally accepted by the group, was inevitable. The ingredients were all there: a prodigious and obsessive talent for drawing and painting, a quirky, original eye, supplemented by striking good looks and a tough, irreverent attitude to life. She had a certain shine, a vividness about her; she was just one of those people who generated their own gravity, causing people to cluster around her and try to please her. It was impossible to imagine her being anything other than a great success.

‘I’ve got to go too,’ said Benedict reluctantly. ‘I’m leaving first thing and I haven’t packed yet.’

Eva and Lucien said their goodbyes and lay back on the grass, watching the other two walk away down the hill. A tinge of purple was seeping into the late afternoon light announcing the onset of dusk, and Eva was feeling light-headed from the cheap, acidic wine. Lucien rolled over onto his side so that he was facing her.

‘And then there were two,’ he said, reaching into the plastic bag beside him. ‘Looks like it’s just you and me left to drink the last bottle, Eva.’

The way Lucien said her name made it sound dark and alluring. It was the most exotic thing about her and she had always liked it. Her socialist father sometimes joked that she was named after Eva Perón, but she knew her mother had chosen it just because she loved it. If it had been left to him she’d probably have been called something drab and unostentatious, like Jane or