It seemed the sort of holiday Luke would appreciate, so David struck a match to light his furtive first cigarette. He was fairly certain Astrid knew he was taking them, and that she didn't truly mind, but she'd feel obliged to tell him off for smoking anyway, puffing on her own cigarette all the while. Astrid had been quitting for three years now. David had been stealing her cigarettes about as long. His little contribution, he reasoned, if she doesn't have any cigarettes she can't smoke.
Luke, as he always did, reached over, took a drag off the cigarette, then coughed. "Lemon," he said disgustedly. "What's the point?" David shrugged, leaned back against the stoop. "Do you think she'll ever finish quitting?"
"I doubt it."
Luke smiled, like sparks off a flint, and handed the cigarette back. "It's going to be a hell of a day," he said. "The forecasters said sunny. They're wrong." David had found Luke was usually right about the weather, a lot more often than the blonde on Channel Five. Already a thin coating of mist clung to the sky, turning the morning back into twilight.
Astrid's Mini pulled around the corner, and David hurriedly stuck the cigarette behind his back, but Astrid only grinned and waved at them. Luke waved back. "She's planning something, isn't she?" he asked David.
David nodded. "Only reason she'd go to work early. She's gotten the whole office to agree to help. They're going to move the president's office to the roof."
"Ah, the classics." Luke stuck out a hand. "No time for a game before the rain hits. Let's go to town."
The fountain was overflowing with soap suds, and several rubber duckies had found a new home there. Luke dismissed this as amatuer. He was more approving of the padlocked doors of the courthouse. A man with a hacksaw was already at work, surrounded by men in suits shouting unhelpful variations on the theme of "Hurry up!" Since Astrid had burnt breakfast again ("Was it you?" "No. Not this time.") they stopped in at a teashop. The waitress added up their order on a pad of paper, looking annoyed; the cash register was already half-dissambled, and Luke quietly reached out and pocketed one of the pieces, ignoring David's look of warning.
"Come off it," he said when they sat down. "Can't I have a little fun today? Of all days?"
"It's not that," David said. "It's that you do it anyway. All the time. I suppose you can't help it, but I can't help wanting you to stop, either. It's not nice."
Luke shrugged. "I'm not nice." He pulled the cogwheel out of his pocket and fiddled with it, while David puffed on the last of his cigarette and finally stubbed it out in the ashtray. His hands itched for something to do. He wanted to talk to Luke, but he couldn't think of what to say. Of course you're nice, just not the things you do would be favorite, except that it was a lie, and now that David no longer felt guilty all the time, guilt was enough to stop him from lying casually. Luke wasn't nice. He was David's friend, of course, but that didn't mean anything. Finally David settled for, "So why don't you stop it for today? Since everyone else is doing it for you?"
Luke smiled and spun the cogwheel across the back of his fingers. "It's the closest I have to a feast day, David. Would you give up cake for your birthday, even if you worked in a bakery?"
"I should think I'd be heartily sick of cake anytime if I worked in a bakery."
"I wouldn't." Luke put the cogwheel away as the harried waitress brought over their crumpets, and they discussed cricket for the rest of the meal.
When it was over Luke produced a suprising amount of money, all in coins. "See?" he told David. "It all works out." David watched carefully as Luke took the coins and the cogwheel and dropped them all into his untouched water glass, then produced a battered playing card from somewhere.
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing much," Luke said. He put the card on top the glass and then, his hands moving almost imperceptively fast, flipped them both over, slamming them against the table; not a drop of water was spilled. "You wouldn't approve." The card was slid from beneath the glass, and vanished again. "We can watch her try to clean the table from the street, if you like. Should be worth a few laughs."
David shook his head, uncertainly. He never quite reconciled this in his mind; the casual pranking seems a halfway house between his loyal friend and the boy who once killed a god because he thought it was clever, and reminds him uncomfortably of the distance between those two, how paradoxical it was that they should be joined in one person.
Or maybe it wasn't that strange. Luke, after all, did not work by the same set of rules.
The waitress cursed, loud enough to be heard outside the glass. "Poor woman," David said.
"Relax," answered Luke, good-naturedly. "She'll get over it." And indeed, she is already laughing.
By the time the rain started in earnest they had taken shelter under the eaves of a movie theatre. David, nervous, pulled out another cigarette and Luke lit it for him. The uncomfortable thought that he might be becoming addicted crosses David's mind. He'd only taken up the habit because it was such an adult thing to do, and never meant to keep it up past school. (It gave him a reason to carry matches, too. He does not feel quite comfortable without matches close at hand.) The marquee offered them a choice of three movies. "One romance, one gory action, one drama," David said. "Covering all their bases. What do you think?"
"I think we should find a better theatre," says Luke. "Except it's raining, and we don't have a car."
The theatre didn't open until noon, so they waited, sitting against the window and debating the best way to get thrown out. Eventually they decided on faking the sounds of a couple enjoying themselves a little too much; for maximum irony, they'll do it in the action movie. David tried not to think of his urge to light his third cigarette of the day before morning was even over, or of the dry, hot touch of Luke's hand on his, counting up wickets across his fingers. He wasn't sure how they had worked around again to the topic of cricket. Save it for after dinner, he told himself.
Eventually Luke fell silent. "You're miles away, David," he said reasonably. "Venezuela doesn't even have a national team. And if they did, I wouldn't play for it." David blushed.
"It's too wet to play," he said inanely. "Can't you dry things out a bit? Or is that not your field?"
"I can't change the weather when it's like this. Look, I won't melt. Do you want to go home? Is something the matter?"
David shook his head. "It's your day," he said. "Your feast-day, or whatever it is. I don't mind spending it with you. If you don't mind spending it with me."
"Nonsense. Like I said. It's nothing special. I'm like this all year round." Luke waved a hand. "I don't really like it that much, truth be told. People bottle themselves up, think that they can't have any fun if it's not the first of April. They forget."
David's throat had gone dry. He swallowed convulsively. "I won't forget," he said. "I never did."
"I know it's not your thing." Luke's eyes were perfectly serious, and David fiddled with his third cigarette, debated himself, let it go. He reachd out a hand.
"Will you stay the night?"
"Sure." The spark-bright smile again. "I'll stay the night."