Nick comes down the stairs like a pimp with a woman under each of his arms. Travis immediately recognizes the blonde in the knee-high boots and they make eyes at one another, but he has never seen the other girl. She is wearing combat boots, a short leather skirt, and a blouse that accentuates her buxom chest. “Heeeey,” Nick says as he comes to the landing.

“Look what I found.”

Sandy detaches herself from Nick and latches onto Travis, leaning herself up on the railing of the landing. Travis puts an arm around her, and then notices she is just wearing a short dress with her shoulders bare. He stands her up for a moment, takes off his leather jacket and drapes it over her shoulders. She smiles and snuggles under his arm again. Travis is unnerved by the feeling of breath on his neck. He tries harder to keep his cool, but he can’t help wanting to attack her in a fury of passion.

“Hey,” Nick says again to the crowd on the landing. “This is Erica. Erica…” Nick pauses.

“This is everybody.”

“Hey everybody,” Erica says quietly.

Eric tries to wave, but can’t quite get his head out of his hands. Kristin, Ian and Travis all nod politely, though. “How the hell’d you meet this scoundrel?” Travis asks Erica. And he really wants to know. He’d never known Nick to just pick up a stranger at a party.

“We were in Studio together Spring quarter,” Nick answers.

From the looks of cradled heads on shoulders, they would either be partaking in carnal activities or taking care of a lost soul for a night. He could never take advantage of a drunk woman—tipsy, but not drunk. As if sensing his concern, Sandy looks up for a moment into Travis’s eyes. “I broke up with Jason,” she says, sad and as if no one else is around. Ian and Nick exchange amused glances as Travis just smiles and wraps his arm tighter around her. She puts her head back down on his shoulder, obviously tired. Moonlight falls across the carousel in Travis’s mind for a moment. Kristin looks at Travis with one eyebrow raised when he looks back up, questioning his motives. With his left arm draped over Sandy, though, Travis just gestures to Eric on the stairs. “You got your own to take care of,” he answers. Eric waves with one hand, keeping his head down in the other. “I’m f-f-fine,” he mutters.

“C’mon,” Kristin urges, tugging on his arm. “If you don’t get up and move around you’re gonna’ get sick.”

Eric makes an incredible effort and stands up. His eyes widen brightly, and he starts to sit back down before Kristin grabs his arm and pulls him to her, his arm over her shoulder. He leans heavily, but seems to be a little better off for standing.

Daphne and John come gaily stomping down the stairs, laughing at some joke they were sharing. Each of them is carrying three beers apiece, bringing the music from upstairs down with them in the silent moment on the landing. “Who wants beer?” John calls jovially. Ian and Travis each take one.

Dizzy and John take up position in the circle between the now symbiotic beings of NickandErica, KristinandEric and TravisandSandy. “Doh-see-fuckin-doh!” John yells. The conversation drifts as the music waterfalls down the iron stairs, all of the sound carried out onto Milledge avenue, out into the city lights, out into a sleepy world. The laughter and jests cool the late summer evening. There beneath the katydid moon there is hesitation, knowing glances and simple talk that lingers into the early hours of the night like a lullaby. Settling on the landing, a comfort of contentment comes to rest on the iron, matches without pairs, pairs without matches. Travis smiles quietly and lets himself slip out of the conversation to feel Sandy’s breath on his neck. He is comfortable in support, feels meaningful under her weight.