The Green Drink

They’re already handing out sparklers when Leon returns to the fire, following a different route than Howard to allay suspicion. He spots an open seat by Sorrento and takes it, leaning against his elbow on the picnic table.

“Good night?” He hasn’t seen nearly as much of his friend as he would have liked. Hopefully he’s been off getting laid too.

“Pretty decent.” Sorrento grins. “I’ve gotten my share.” His eyes suddenly sparkle. “Remember last August at Fire Island?”

Leon’s own grin spreads. “Hell yeah.”

Sorrento doesn’t have to say more. He hands Leon a beer, and they tink the rims together before taking long, simultaneous pulls.

Sorrento belches impressively and wipes his mouth with his sleeve. “I don’t even have to ask you,” he says. “You’ve sort of been everywhere.” He raises an eyebrow. “I even heard you got into some poetry.”

Does Leon blush? He’s not even certain what that would feel like. “Something like that.”

Sorrento gives him a quizzical look. “Since when are you so mysterious?”

The arrival of Pen distributing sparklers saves him from answering. They get to their feet along with everyone else. There are lighters making their way around the circle, but Abner, next to him, decides not to wait. He strides to the center of the ring and lights directly from the fire.

“To motherfucking America!” he shouts, and offers the spark on his wand to others. Showers of gold begin coruscating throughout the crowd.

Something is happening, Leon realizes. His skin prickles with a charge in the air. It runs over his arms like electricity, makes his breath catch. He raises his sparkler and finds himself twirling, drawing loops and whorls that leave glowing trails in his wake. Laughter bubbles up from his chest. It joins the other voices rising to the stars.

“Green,” says a voice, booming over the tumult, “is the color of life, vibrant and strong.”

The crowd slowly falls silent and turns to face Kohana. He holds up a glass of a green liquid that luminesces in his hand. Kim and Joani are circling the courtyard with trays containing more glasses. Leon takes one when it reaches him.

“Revitalize yourself with its power,” Kohana says. His voice resonates, ripe with weight and wisdom far beyond his young-looking face. “Let it wash over you and change you.”

Kim, her tray of drinks depleted, steps up to his side and raises her own glass. “Learn, grow, and thrive,” she says. “Drink and be vital. Be vibrant.”

They look at each other, a fond gaze that speaks of pain and joy and love shared and lost, a lifetime of friendship condensed into a single moment. They turn again as one, lift their glasses even higher, and speak the word together: “Live.”

It tastes of lime and mint and ginger, at first. It sparkles on his tongue.

The flavor shifts as he swallows. A hint of bitterness, then slow sweetness and, curiously, heat. It radiates through him. It touches his chest, his belly, his neck, spreads to his fingertips and toes, fills him up to bursting. Live, it seems to whisper. Live.

Live.

And deep inside him… something changes.

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