The donut landed on the sand, and hardly lost any of his sugar dusts. The boys laughed from the balcony, splashing some of their champagne toward the orange sunset. But they held on to their glasses and their laughter. Soon they turned back to the cocoons of rooms framed by long white balcony doors and English curtains. The beach cottage had a colonial feel, out of place in this California seaside town. Laura stood stretched out an arm toward the boys, sprays of freckles covering her milky white skin. She was laughing too until tears rolled down her cheeks. Her red hair had gathered into clumps of curly mess, still pretty, sexy even, but undone compared to an earlier version of herself. when she had opened up the package, squealing with delight at its pretty green wrappings which matched the colors in her eyes.
But she was disappointed, it was a box of donuts, plain, yellow, fried dough with sprinkles of clear sugar crystals as icing. Not even glazed, or covered in chocolate, filled with cream or jams. She took a bite, and thought it was not bad, fluffy and airy compared to the heavily sugared kinds she had before, but it was no cream puff. She tossed it at the boys, and gave them her trademark glares. "What is this?" she said, "I thought you were going to bring me desert, not breakfast."
The boys threw up their hands and huffed, "Woman, don't you read the news? There was a terrorist attack in downtown, no one knows where they might hit next. You are lucky..."
"Don't tell me if I'm lucky. What am I supposed to do with them? That's it, I'm not going to the The New Year's Ball with you!"
"Fine by me. Who knows if there will be a ball anyway? The whole town is shutting down or blowing up, according to the News Room."
The girl screamed. Something flared up in her face, a patch of red blooming under her skin and growing in shade and diameter. She pulled up her dress, a green silk gown Lucas, one of the boys, had gifted her for Christmas, and danced like a bird escaping from a fire, her feet tipping to their toes, her body spinning, her arms lifted high, holding up the hem of her dress. The boys saw patches of red flare up on her skin, and flailed their arms about, as if to put out the invisible fire burning her down, from the inside. The girl hopped on her tiptoes, looking into a far away place, still holding the hem of her dress so high it nearly obliterated her face, but her arms slacked down slowly, until she screamed again.
Lucas grabbed her arm and pulled her until she followed him back out onto the balcony, where sea wind had kicked up just a few minutes ago, against the onset of clouds. "What?" He shouted into her ears, "wake up Laura! What is it?"
Laura poured her body over the railings, nearly toppling over but Lucas grabbed her knees and held her back. She murmured, letting white foams gather around her mouth and drip down onto the sand. The other boy James, clicked around on his phone but didn't know who to dial. "A bit much for a doughnut, isn't it?"
"Pot." Lucas shouted back. He didn't know for sure but he had heard of it, the donut shop on the corner of 5th street had a weird reputation, like they made things to order, including adding pots to brownies, or donuts. When everything else closed that evening, he was glad to see a light on and the smell of freshly made donuts wafting through their windows. He bought whatever was fresh out and told them to put the pretties green package on it - Laura's favorite color.
Laura stopped midway in her dance over the balcony and Lucas dragged her slackened body back into the room. She smiled. The room smelled good. Lucas smelled good and the bed smelled like home. The little cottage gave her sweet flashbacks of Saturday mornings as a child, of rushing into her parents bedrooms and watch cartoons and eat donuts in bed, without rules, without schedules. She hadn't had these big dreams of moving to California then, of studying marine biology. Home was her center then, that rambling lake house in Michigan where Mom and Dad texted each other about what was needed for groceries until one of them died. Dad. He had had the same dark eyes and lanky body and wild artist hair as Lucas, an untamed look, not sporty but not weak either. Stubborn. She looked around, and saw the pretty green box, full of sweets, indulgences she no longer allowed herself ever since moving here six years ago. It was not easy to blend in with the throngs of blond beach beauties here but she had managed it, after many years of practice, self discipline and hard work, and finally she looked like one of them, a slim and sleek California girl, even though her skin and hair color still wouldn't comply - they betrayed a heritage too important for her to change, or even disguise.
"No!" Lucas dived for the green box, and pulled them from Laura's reaching fingers. "These gave you hives. Let's keep them away for tonight. Too many weird things happened already..."
"I had shrimp for dinner, that's what gave me hives." Laura stated as a matter of fact. Who cares? What's a little pot? She knew the minute Lucas went for that dive that something gave her a high in that donut. She wanted it, more of it, the sweet fluffy texture and cloudy revenge it brought later. Revenge for all the times she lost, all the sweets she had forgone, for what? To be blown up by some crazy religious fanatics? Holidays no longer meant anything to her, and this New Year's Ball, was the first time she had decided to go out with Lucas, her study partner, and fate had brought her a reason to indulge. Why fight it?
"Are you sure?" Lucas hesitated. They have studied together in graduate school for a year and a half, but maybe there hadn't be an occasion where he saw Laura eat shrimp before. He let Laura take the box from him and bite into a second donut.
"See?" Laura opened her palms and showed him the milky white of her skin returning to its freckle spotted state. "Don't worry, I can handle a little pot." She winked before taking another bite, laughing from the depth of her throat, her chest and coughing a little to catch her breath after swallowing. "Just don't let me choke."
"So you know? Yeah, I guess we are Okay." Lucas nodded and peered at his watch. "I guess we are late for the party. Do you still want to check it out?"
James stepped out onto the balcony and hollered at the moon. He had taken a donut earlier during the chaos and now he began to scratch himself. "Who needs some stupid party? Let's party here!" He howled again, eliciting a chorus of response from the board walk below. "Donut?" He shouted down, though no one answered, he grabbed one from the box, and tossed it into the black forms rising and falling along the lines of the beach. Sand dunes, sea lions resting their noses, or late night swimmers sneaking around coast guards and checking off "skinny dipping" from their bucket list. No one could be sure, and James couldn't care less. He watched the donut make an arc, a silvery casting of sugar flakes spreading like magic dust, leaving behind a circle of gold, simple but fulfilling, from one dreamer to another, one nest to the next, flying and landing without fanfare, without noise, without complaints.
Laura laughed through her tears inside, and circled her arms around Lucas's neck. Why wait? She said to no one in particular, pulling that solid pillar of warmth toward her. He resisted, question marks in his eyes, but she stared back, and without hesitation or regret, kissed him on the lips. It was dry, seeping warmth but awkwardly closed, while his eyes opened wide, filled with some kind of wonder, shock and amusements. Not your movie magic first kiss, but Laura didn't care. The ocean roared, louder than anything else going on in her head, and it felt good to hear that, the sound of the world, of nature, of silence. She smiled, tossing another donut to James, and one more, for herself too.