"Thanks for the ride home."
"Thanks for dinner."
For a moment it was quiet between the two teens. Neither really knew what to do in this situation; Henry had never had a girl over to his house before, and Barb had never gone over to a boy's house before. As the seconds ticked by in silence, the cool November air gently blew past them and softly stung their cheeks. Henry had the benefit of leaning in the doorway—halfway in and halfway out (something his father would've normally yelled at him to stop doing, unless he would like to pay to heat the whole damn neighborhood). But, Barb was fully at the mercy of the elements as she stood on the porch—growing colder as neither said anything.
"Do you—." Barb cleared her throat as her voice buckled ever so slightly, "Do you need a ride tomorrow?"
"Uh…" Henry mumbled, buying himself time as he considered, "I should be able to get that piece of junk working before then. Thanks for the offer though."
"Oh, okay," Barb said, sounding a tad surprised and maybe covering up a tiny bit of disappointment, "Um, then, see you at school?"
"See you at school," Henry replied, flashing one of his winning smiles.
Barb returned it with her own small, inauthentic one, but when she turned to leave, she suddenly stopped and spun back around to face him.
"Henry?" She said, Henry's smile disappearing as he heard how her voice took on a funny quality, "Thanks."
"For?" He asked, his brow furrowed.
"Distracting me," Barb replied, Henry's confusion quickly replaced with understanding, "Giving me something to do other than mope around my room all night. Thanks."
"Of course, Barb," Henry replied, his lighthearted demeanor nowhere to be seen as he spoke genuinely, "Anytime."
Barb's face softened into her true smile, and Henry responded in kind. It was gentle, familiar, and appeared romantic to anyone who caught it. The softness lasted for a moment more, but it didn't come to an end naturally. Instead, it was shattered by the familiar sound coming from behind Henry.
Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long?
Again, understanding washed over Henry's expression as the terrible realization of what was happening hit him.
The sound of the Beach Boys flowed from deep inside of the house and out to where the two teens stood; Henry shutting his eyes and leaning his forehead against the frame.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled, "Never had a girl over for dinner."
Barb laughed at that, and Henry cracked an eye open to look at her; his lips unwillingly pulling up at the corners. For a moment it was quiet as Barb continued to giggle, before Henry straightened up and levelled her with a gentle look.
"See you tomorrow, Barbara Holland," He said, no longer trying to hide his smile. Barb's grin softened to match Henry's expression, and she nodded slightly; looking as if she wanted to say something other than a farewell. But, she didn't, and neither one was too worried about what was unspoken. They'd get around to it eventually. They had time.
"See you tomorrow, Henry Sinclair."
By the time the calendar read November of 1983, Henry was well aware that his name had changed.
Sure, on paper it was the same name his parents had given him the day he'd been born: Henry Joseph Sinclair. Nothing special, just a name made up of his parent's surname and leftovers from dead relatives (his burden to bear as the eldest; Lucas and Erica had gotten shiny new ones). But, that was just legally. Ask anyone around Hawkins—even the ones who didn't know him personally—about the handsome young man driving a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass and they'd all call him by the same name:
Henry "The Kid Who Fell Off the Quarry (and Lived!)" Sinclair.
It was better than its predecessor (although Henry "The Black Kid" Sinclair popped up sometimes to this day), but it still wasn't a great feeling to have everyone identify you by the worst time of your life.
Yes, at age 12 Henry had gone over the Quarry's edge and into the water, and obviously, he'd survived. It was complete and utter luck that kept him from dying when he fell 200 feet that day—godly intervention the religious folks around town would say. But, he hadn't gotten away unscathed, and as a result he'd been bedridden for a very long time. So long, that he hadn't been able to go back to school for the rest of the semester.
While his classmates graduated and moved right onto 8th grade, Henry had returned to school in the fall for a second take of the 7th. It wasn't the worst part of the whole ordeal, of course not, but at the time it had stung a little. The weak connections built between middle schoolers were easily broken by months of absence, and although he had been the focus of the entire town, Henry was alone.
And he never tried to change that.
Yeah, if you asked anyone in town about the handsome young man driving the 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass, they could tell you all about how he fell in the Quarry at age 12—how he survived something that no one in the history of Hawkins ever had—but they couldn't tell you much else.
If you asked the students of Hawkins High about their classmate, they could tell you about his easy rapport with everyone around him. If you asked various teachers, they could tell you about his respectful nature and aptitude for problem solving. If you asked Lisa Wells, she could tell you about his bright smile, broad shoulders, and his sweet apologies when he turned down her invitation to the Sadie Hawkins dance.
If you asked Charles Sinclair, he could tell you about his son's work ethic, and his knack for cars that kept his piece of garbage running for far longer than it probably should have. If you asked Erica Sinclair, she could tell you about how her big brother would play with her more often than not, even when she personally thought he should be out with friends. If you asked Judith Sinclair, she could tell you about how her son was always willing to do chores without (much) complaint, and how he seemed to skip the teenage angst and go right to being a good and kind young man.
She was the only one who really noticed, and if you pressed she'd admit it:
She didn't know much about her son. She didn't know much about his thoughts, or hopes, or dreams. The last time he'd come to her about his feelings had been before the Quarry. Before Henry had built a wall between himself and those around him. Most people couldn't see it, but it was there, transparent. Something that blocked everyone from ever really getting close to him. Judith couldn't put her finger on what it was or what had caused it (the trauma of a near death experience, the pain being isolated, or something entirely different?), but at the end of the day, it didn't matter. It was there all the same. Nothing she, or anyone else, did seem to be able to change that. And as Henry grew older, she realized that maybe she'd just have to accept it.
She didn't know much about Henry.
And she was starting to worry that no one did.
If you asked Lucas Sinclair, he could explain to you everything about his brother.
But, he wouldn't.
Henry smiled to himself as the familiar sound of wheels on pavement and excited chatter reached his ears. He didn't raise his head from where it was buried under the hood of his car though, not even when one of the bikes rolled into the garage.
"Hey," Lucas said, throwing his bike down in Henry's peripheral.
"Hey," Henry replied, Lucas moving to stand beside the car; Henry wordlessly handing the flashlight over so his younger brother could shine it on the problem area.
"What's wrong with it now?" Lucas asked, Henry's lips turning upward slightly at his tone.
"Spark plugs," he said, pausing for a moment, "I hope. Go try to start it, will you?"
The brothers passed the flashlight yet again and Lucas ran over to the driver's seat to turn the keys that were already in the ignition. For a breathless moment, the sounds that car made were not promising, but all of a sudden it roared to life and both Sinclair boys cheered. Henry shut the hood while Lucas turned it off; both of them plopping down on the front of the car with satisfied smiles.
"How was your, uh, crusade?" Henry hazard a guess, Lucas rolling his eyes dramatically.
"Campaign. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
Henry laughed at that, leaning over to the mini-fridge and pulling out two Cokes; replying as he tossed one to his brother.
"I was pretty close that time."
"It was good," Lucas said, electing to ignore him, "Mike's the best at being the Dungeon Master. The Demogorgan did technically get Will, but Mike didn't see the roll so..."
"It's not cheating if nobody notices," Henry replied, easily getting a laugh out of Lucas. For a moment, it was quiet between the two Sinclair brothers. Both of them just enjoyed the cool fall night and the sharp taste of a sugary drink. But, reality returned sooner rather than later and Henry cleared his throat; Lucas recognizing one of his brother's tells immediately.
"So," Henry started slowly, Lucas at full attention now, "I had a friend over for dinner earlier, and Mom and Dad and Erica are all kind of being weird about it. It's not a big deal, just… thought I'd prepare you before you went inside."
"Why're they being weird?" Lucas asked with a furrowed brow, his confused look incredibly similar to the one his older brother had worn earlier. Henry studied the top of his can before taking a sip, and the moment that passed was just a little bit too long.
"It was a girl."
Henry kept his eyes on his drink, once again seeing his brother movements in his peripheral vision. Lucas was still for a few seconds with his eyes trained on Henry, and then he turned to look straight ahead; waiting a moment—maybe gathering his thoughts—before he spoke.
"I didn't know you had any friends that're girls."
"It's new," Henry replied promptly, neither brother looking at each other, "Barb. She's nice."
Henry felt Lucas turn to look at him, and he resisted for a moment before giving in and meeting his eyes.
"How nice?" Lucas asked, Henry eyeing the door that stood between the garage and the house.
"Very nice. She, uh." Henry shot another glance at the door before returning to looking Lucas dead on, this time with a million unspoken words in his eyes, "She really gets me."
Surprise took over Lucas's features at that and it was quiet as he processed. But, he finally smiled slightly and any tension in Henry started to dissipate.
"That's… good," Lucas said, Henry nodding before looking forward again, "What do you mean 'weird?'"
"They played Wouldn't It Be Nice when she was leaving."
Only silence followed that. Both looked out, past everything that was safely inside the brightly lit garage, and towards the darkness just outside the door. It was a quiet night in this part of town, with the only sound being the rustling of the trees as gentle winds blew through them. Hawkins was having a mild November so far, nothing any of them would ever complain about, but there was something odd about being able to go without getting bundled up.
Henry tapped absentmindedly on the top of the can with his nail as he thought back to sitting at the dinner table. It hadn't been as bad as he'd imagined it. Of course, back when he'd entertained the possibility of bringing home a girl to meet his parents, it hadn't been Barb. He liked Barb and his parents had too. Things were easier with Barb than they would be with any other girl.
But, even so, Henry felt that familiar pit form in his stomach. It was stupid; Barb was just his friend who came over for dinner. It wasn't like it was anything other than that. It wasn't like it was anything his parents were imagining it to be. This wasn't some build up, it was just him having his friend over. It was just him and Barb being friends, not the precursor to—.
Henry's fingers twitched towards his pocket, even though they were empty, and he mentally cursed at himself. This was not something to get so worked up about that he needed one. God, this was stupid. He shouldn't be feeling like this, shouldn't be reaching for a box, he shouldn't have all of those fears popping up again. Stupid. Stupid. St—.
Henry stiffened as he was pulled out of his thoughts by the muffled sound coming from beside him. He looked over at Lucas, and one look at his baby brother's face was all it took for his mind to be completely taken off of his anxieties. With an unwilling smile pulling on his lips, he spoke.
Lucas just laughed harder.
The morning after Barb had eaten dinner with his family, Henry cruised down the road in his newly repaired car. It was bright, seventy-five degrees, and there was a small part of his brain telling him to skip school. But, he was the type that ignored those whispers, and instead he dutifully headed towards Hawkins High.
With the windows down, and the radio playing Little Red Corvette, it made for a picturesque morning. Henry gently drummed his fingers against the wheels as his lips formed the words that Prince was crooning on the radio. He was lighter this morning than he had been the night before. It wasn't that it was all resolved, of course, it was just a lot harder to be burdened by anxiety when the air was crisp and the sun was gently warming your skin.
Henry's idyllic morning was soon interrupted, however, by a sudden cacophony of sound. He straightened up in his seat and turned down his music as he tried to get a handle on what he was hearing. The sound that was coming from behind him.
"Wouldn't it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn't have to wait so long?"
Once his brain finally processed what was happening, Henry threw a middle finger out of the car and unsuccessfully tried to squash the smile taking over his features. He could hear how loud laughter mixed in with the off-tune screeching of the Beach Boys, and he allowed that grin to fully take over his features when the familiar kids, hauling on their bikes, went on either side of his car.
"You're all dead to me!" He called out his window, grinning as Dustin and Mike both blew up into hysterical giggles—not even trying to keep up their singing anymore—and Lucas shot him a finger gun as he continued to serenade his brother.
As they neared a stop sign, Henry slowed and he threw a wave at the kids who only seemed to speed up. He chuckled as he watched them cycle into the distance and he leaned back against his seat. Once he started forward again, he still drove at a more ambling pace. He was in no rush to get to school, and he figured he might as well enjoy the last bits of sunshine this year had to offer. Those boys hadn't ruined his idyllic morning. He probably wouldn't admit it, but being heckled by middle schoolers had made it all the more perfect. Henry's smile stayed on his face for the rest of the drive to school.
Looking back on it, back on the 7th of November, 1983, Henry would wonder why he hadn't noticed that only three bikes had flanked his car that sunny morning.